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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 January, 2004, 08:43 GMT
Blair has 'little to celebrate'
Wednesday morning's papers have been considering Tony Blair's victory by five votes on variable university fees - and they do not think he has much to celebrate.

The Guardian says that "by any conventional standards this was not a victory but a humiliation".

The Times, in its front page headline, suggests that Mr Blair won "a bloody battle", but lost the war.

The paper believes the prime minister's authority has been "badly damaged".

The Sun sees it as "a body blow" for Mr Blair, and says the rebels should be ashamed of themselves.

'Nerve jangling'

Many commentators believe the prime minister must learn from his narrow escape.

Steve Richards, in the Independent, urges the prime minister to consult his backbenchers before policy announcements, rather than in the "nerve-jangling" build up to a vote.

And, he says, Mr Blair should make sure that his chancellor is on board, before controversial announcements.

The Daily Mail's leader writer agrees, saying: "Gordon Brown has demonstrated awesome influence over his party", by winning over rebels to the government's side.

It adds: "The prime minister now only rules courtesy of his chancellor."

'Exit sign'

The Daily Telegraph similarly, believes "Mr Blair remains prime minister only by the grace and favour of the chancellor".

It warns that "next time he feels the hand of history on his shoulder, it will be guiding him towards the exit sign".

The Financial Times says this has been the most damaging disagreement between the prime minister and his backbenchers so far.

It exposes anew "divisions in the Labour party that kept it out of office for 18 years", the paper argues.

What the vote means for Mr Blair's premiership will not be clear until Wednesday's verdict from Lord Hutton, after his inquiry into the death of David Kelly, it adds.

The Sun and the Daily Mirror both claim to know what is in the Hutton report.

The Sun says the whole inquiry has been pointless, because the public already knew the prime minister did not act dishonestly...and that the BBC was "deeply flawed".

It calls on "BBC blunderers" to resign.

'Simple-minded'

The decision to abandon plans for a new animal research centre in Cambridge because of the cost of security disappoints several papers.

The Mail's science editor, Michael Hanlon, calls it a triumph for "simple-minded fanatics" and says scientists have "lost a golden opportunity" to develop new treatments for Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

The Independent wants a ban on the use of monkeys and apes in experiments.

But it says this was the right decision, taken for the wrong reasons - "born out of fear" of "thuggish" animal rights campaigners.

'Suburban mediocrity'

The Telegraph tells how the author and academic, Germaine Greer, has damaged Australia's "fragile national ego" with a scathing attack on her homeland.

She wrote in the Australian newspaper that the country was "defined by suburban mediocrity", personified by the characters in the soap opera, Neighbours.

The prime minister, John Howard, has weighed into the debate.

He called her article patronising, condescending and pathetic.


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