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Thursday, 21 June, 2001, 06:23 GMT 07:23 UK
A rising star eclipses the boss
Tottenham's Labour MP David Lammy
Lammy made his mark with opening speech
By BBC News Online political correspondent Nick Assinder

The state opening of parliament may be billed as one of the big political events of the year - but there are usually more laughs, surprises and revelations to be had at an end-of-the-pier magic show.

The day kicks off with the splendour of the sovereign's procession from Buckingham Palace to the Lords which delights tourists, but which pitches the capital's traffic system into chaos for the rest of the day.

Her Majesty then spends about 10 minutes or less stifling yawns, let alone expressions of disbelief, as she reads out what "her government" is about to inflict on the nation.

There is then an extended break for lunch before the business moves down to the Commons for the debate on the Queen's Speech, which allows the two party leaders to tear chunks out of each other, or gloat over the size of their majority.

It is all pretty ritualistic and predictable so, in an attempt to liven things up, a couple of backbenchers are given their chance to shine - or otherwise - with brief speeches.

Prime Minister Tony Blair and Tory leader William Hague
Blair and Hague traded punches
They are, in effect, the warm up acts for the main bout between the party leaders. And they have to hit exactly the right note.

They should be witty, serious, disrespectful and obsequious all at the same time.

But the one thing they should never do is overshadow the main players.

Delivered with style

So Tottenham's new Labour MP David Lammy clearly had not been given the right brief when he got up to do his turn just minutes before his leader.

The young newcomer delivered what many believe was one of the best parliamentary speeches they had heard for an age.

It was bitingly funny, it was delivered with considerable style and it did not duck sensitive issues about race and voter disenchantment.

And it immediately marked Mr Lammy out as a rising star, with some even suggesting he might eventually become Britain's first black prime minister - it was that good.

Unfortunately his leader was never likely to match it - and he didn't.

Tory leader William Hague
Hague gave a vintage performance
Outgoing Tory leader William Hague, on the other hand, more than rose to the occasion.

Judo kid

Even Tony Blair had to congratulate him for delivering a "vintage Hague performance."

At one point, when referring to John Prescott's punch up with a voter, he warned the deputy prime minister: "steady, I do judo you know."

It was Mr Hague at his best and Mr Blair will be delighted that, whoever the next Tory leader is, he will never again be subjected to the sort of stand-up punishment Mr Hague regularly used to inflict on him.

But, as is always the case with these set-piece events, it will not stay in the memory.

The most memorable fact about is was that the two best speeches were made by a man clearly on the way up and another on the way out.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Vicky Young
reports on Parliament's first day

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