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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 19 June, 2002, 14:54 GMT 15:54 UK
Prime Minister's Questions
BBC News Online's Nick Assinder gives his instant view on the winners and losers during Tony Blair's weekly grilling in the House of Commons.

Referring to the crisis in company pension funds, Iain Duncan Smith said: "This may come as a bit of a blow to the chancellor but a man of the prime minister's age will now have to work four years longer than planned."

Labour's Tam Dalyell showed the fruits of 40 years in Parliament as he put Tony Blair in the unenviable position of having to disagree with the world's best respected statesman, Nelson Mandela, over calls for the Lockerbie bomber to be moved from a Scottish prison.

For his offensive, Iain Duncan Smith focused on reports of crime and fears that stock market falls mean people will have to work longer to get a decent pension.

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy challenged the prime minister on France's continued "illegal" ban on imports of British beef.

Among the issues raised by other MPs were: calls for fair trade; plans to dock aid from countries that do not co-operate on immigration problems; school truancy; transport problems; and the timing of a possible euro referendum.

Norman Baker can usually be relied upon to skewer the prime minister with a difficult question.

But his jibe about reports that Alastair Campbell is attempting to secure Mr Blair a more prominent role in England's World Cup success fell flat and was too easily dismissed as "trivial".

Despite making a shameless plea for World Cup tickets by suggesting Mr Blair took him to the final, former sports minister Tony Banks no doubt won the applause of more than just football fans in calling for an extra bank holiday if England reach the tournament final.

Tony Blair suggested waiting to see whether England could beat Brazil on Friday before considering such ideas.

No wonder Gordon Brown was chewing his fingernails and glowering. He is used to seeing Tony Blair roughed up during Question Time, but suddenly he was on the receiving end.

It is not in the chancellor's game plan to poke his head over the parapet when his boss is such a better target (from his point of view.)

But here was Iain Duncan Smith - clearly having fun for the first time in the weekly contest - tearing the head off his reputation for competence and accusing him of undermining the prime minister.

If looks could kill, the entire Tory front bench will be sleeping with the fishes by tonight.

It has taken a bit of time, but Mr Duncan Smith is now well into his stride in Question Time and his tactic of wrong footing the prime minister over policy promises once again hit the mark.

But he had better sleep with the lights on tonight for fear of Gordy knocking on his door.


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15 May 02 | UK Politics
15 May 02 | UK
14 May 02 | UK Politics

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