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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 9 April, 2003, 11:44 GMT 12:44 UK
Verdict: Prime minister's questions

BBC News Online political correspondent Nick Assinder gives his instant verdict as Tony Blair faced questions from MPs at prime minister's question time in the House of Commons.

You would hardly have known there was a Budget looming.

Just minutes before Chancellor Gordon Brown gave his most difficult statement yet on the nation's finances, Tony Blair was stealing all his thunder - basking in the glory of the victor.

Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith even went so far as to declare, in effect, what a fine wartime leader he had been.

No one wanted to say it outright - but the vast majority of questions to the prime minister were based on the cautious assumption that "we've won".

And most of them focused on what we do now.

The prime minister did not declare victory, indeed he went out of his way to insist the conflict in Iraq was not over.

That's understandable. It could still go wrong.


But there was a feeling in the air. Both pro and anti-war sides in the Commons appeared united in their relief that this conflict seemed to be entering its final phase.

The release of tension was evident in the response to Iain Duncan Smith when he asked who he would accept the Iraqi surrender from.

"George Galloway" came the shout from the Labour backbenches.

The universal delight at this remark spoke volumes about the atmosphere in the chamber.

And the prime minister was wearing his finest cloak of humility.

He was taking nothing for granted, he heaped praise on everyone else involved in the war - President Bush and British, American and Australian troops.

And he let others claim that Saddam Hussein had finally lost control of his country.

After all that, the Budget seemed an anti-climax.

Yet the prime minister will risk everything if he forgets that it will be this and future Budgets that will win or lose him the next election, not the war.

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