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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 May, 2003, 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK
Prime Minister's Questions

BBC News Online political correspondent Nick Assinder gives his instant verdict on prime minister's question time from the House of Commons.


Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith used his questions to attack the government over school deficits, NHS bureaucracy, crime figures, traffic congestion and the tax burden.

He said teachers were facing the sack, beds were sacrificed for bureaucrats in the NHS, violent crime was rising and traffic congestion amid an increasing tax burden.

He said that under Labour people faced "more tax, more waste and more failure".

But Mr Blair said the economy was prospering, schools had received a record funding increase and that most crime rates were falling.

He said it was "complete nonsense" to say bureaucracy was being put before beds in the NHS.

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy turned to the row over foundation hospitals, which he said would create "two-tierism" in the health service.

Mr Blair said the plan would create a more efficient NHS with more investment.

Other subjects raised included: democracy in post-war Iraq, the work of RAF Lyneham, job losses at Corus steel plants, telephone tapping of MPs, gang warfare in Manchester, proportional representation, credit card debts, waste management, school support staff, the euro.


Lib Dem MP Norman Baker bangs on regularly about important issues which raise groans of despair from some MPs.

This time it was telephone tapping of MPs. Mr Blair brushed the question away - but will know that the tenacious Mr Baker won't let it lie.

And parliament needs people like that.


Tory MP George Osborne touched on the real burning issue of the day.

No, not I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here - but the saga of the Beckhams and a possible transfer to Real Madrid.

Mr Osborne suggested that his constituents in Tatton, David and Victoria, may be considering a move to Spain, because of the foundation hospitals run by the country's right-wing government.


"The only thing missing from the leader of the Conservative Party's speech was that his cat had died under a Labour government" - Charles Kennedy gets a gag in after Iain Duncan Smith's wide-ranging attack on the government (the cat death was one of the slogans suggested by a Guardian panel's list of how they would revive the Tories' fortunes)


Winning elections, as Iain Duncan Smith has just done, is a very good thing for a political leader. It is what they are supposed to do, after all.

And the Tory leader was given a rousing reception by his own benches as he stepped up to the despatch box ready to tear Tony Blair apart.

It even looked like many of those Tory backbenchers who are still sniping about him behind his back were joining in.

And the opposition leader quickly deployed his now traditional tactic of challenging the government's record on health, education, crime and so on.

But he hadn't counted on the fact that, while winning elections is good for the health, winning wars is much, much better.

So Tony Blair couldn't have been more dismissive if he had been trying.

He is so used to these assaults now that he appears able to bat them aside while playing "Nuke Saddam" on his Game Boy at the same time.

Then, as the cheers from the Labour benches finally died down, Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy went on to ask the right question about foundation hospitals - the issue that just hours later was set to land the prime minister with another massive revolt.


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