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Thursday, 17 January, 2002, 09:11 GMT
Assinder's Question Time verdict
Tony Blair in the Commons
Tony Blair, animated during a past question time
Nick Assinder

The frog - or is it now a pretzel - was back in his throat and, once again, Iain Duncan Smith failed to floor Tony Blair during question time.

Unlike President Bush's troublesome snack, Mr Duncan Smith's irritating cough did not lead to him fainting at the despatch box.

Instead he ploughed on with what should have been devastating questions about transport and policy U-turns on the private sector, Lords reform and so on.

But by the time the punchlines came most backbenchers appeared to have drifted off.

Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith
Duncan Smith missed the mark
Surprisingly Tony Blair was mildly irritated by the attacks, because he resorted to insults - "for him, that is what passes as stinging rhetoric", he sneered.

So, not for the first time, it was left to Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy and Mr Blair's own backbenchers to put him on the spot.

Labour veteran Kevin McNamara and Mr Kennedy demanded assurances about the treatment of al-Qaeda prisoners in Cuba while left-winger John Cryer tore into the policy of bringing private managers into the NHS.

And it had not been an auspicious start for the PM who, when boasting about the improvements in the public services under his reign, claimed waiting lists had gone up.

But not even an own goal like that could hand the Tories an advantage so, once again, it was a clear if uninspiring victory for the prime minister.

Your views of the PMQs clash

posted by Jim Knight
Question Time in the Commons has about as much relevance to the government of this country as the conversations I have with my one and a half year old grandson.

You really are doing your best to trivialise politics, but remember many politicians don't need any help to do that.

posted by Andrew
I disagree with your analysis.

IDS's frog was much less noticeable and Blair looked uncomfortable throughout during the questions. Blair wasn't on top form at all.

Kennedy's questions were ok, but they're not what the public is interested in.

It might be more interesting to the journalists who are bored with trains and hospitals, but these are what the public is concerned about.

IDS was on the right lines and performed pretty well in my opinion.

posted by Guy
Why mention Smith's "irritating" cough, and not (for example) Blair's irritating smirk?

And why publish a photo of the PM from a previous Question Time?

This article is so obviously tilted in favor of the Labour party - what happened to objective journalism?

posted by Gareth Anderson
Your verdict is rubbish for once. For the first time since he became Tory leader - and god knows why he did - IDS actually managed to put in a more effective performance than either of his two opponents.

Kennedy picked up on an issue about which most people really don't remotely share his concern at all.

Blair's own backbenchers provided the PM with no support at all.

IDS clearly won this one contest by a mile over the PM, though less easily perhaps over Kennedy.

See also:

16 Jan 02 | UK Politics
...and the spin goes on
16 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Cuba Britons 'held humanely'
16 Jan 02 | UK Politics
350m transport cash unspent
15 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Labour MPs rebel over health councils
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