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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 May, 2003, 11:48 GMT 12:48 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.

FIXTURE LIST

Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith asked about Peter Mandelson's suggestion that Tony Blair has been "outmanoeuvred" on the euro.

He said there was a "vicious and personal feud" between the prime minister and Mr Brown over the euro.

Mr Blair said MPs would have to wait for a decision on the euro until 9 June.

The Tory leader then again called for a referendum on a European Union constitution.

In his second set of questions he said funding of schools had been "botched".

He said the government was to blame to a school in Croydon being forced to close early and make teachers redundant.

But Mr Blair said the schools budget had increased by 12%.

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy urged Mr Blair to reject Peter Mandelson's suggestion that Mr Brown is "obsessed" with politics and had outfoxed the prime minister on the euro.

Mr Blair again referred to the statement on the euro on 9 June.

Other subjects raised included the London Olympic bid, Celtic's UEFA Cup Final match, police funding, asylum seekers, jobs for IT workers, executive pay at GlaxoSmithKline, arrest of a journalist in Northern Ireland, Toyota jobs, violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, planning rules, compensation for hepatitis C sufferers in Scotland, the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe, the return to Iraq of UN weapons inspectors.


WELL-TIMED TACKLE

Eastbourne Tory MP Nigel Waterson told Mr Blair of a constituent who was delighted with the care she had received during a recent stay in hospital for a hip operation.

"Can he explain to me and to her why she had to have her operation in France?", he asked.


DOUBLE ACT

Mr Blair and Mr Duncan Smith had a sparring session over Europe.

"I don't need lessons from him on splits on Europe," said Mr Blair, referring to the Tory leader's days as a Maastricht rebel.

"He has done more U-turns than a dodgy plumber," said Mr Duncan Smith, raising the prime minister's former support for UK withdrawal from the EC.


NICK ASSINDER'S VERDICT

Gordon Brown was as inscrutable as ever.

As Iain Duncan Smith and Charles Kennedy kicked chunks out of Tony Blair over his continuing rift with the chancellor over the euro - as helpfully exposed by Peter "only a backbencher" Mandelson - all eyes were on Mr Brown.

He chewed his fingernails, he gazed into the middle distance and he furrowed his brow and even his chin. Then he smiled, wistfully.

Ah ha! So he was revelling in the prime minister's obvious discomfort was he?

After all it must he hugely gratifying to hear that you have royally stitched up the man who stitched you up over the Labour leadership.

But no. This was much more likely the famous Brown smile. The one he unleashes at startlingly inappropriate moments and with no relation to what he is saying whenever he is giving a TV interview or explaining his budget to the nation.

Throat

It is his version of warm and approachable. Still, nice to know he is happy - for whatever reason.

The other clearly happy chap was Iain Duncan Smith who, for the second week running, went for the throat over Europe.

And, for the second week running, just about every one of his bullets hit their target. And he was obviously more relaxed and confident than for some time.

So much so he even managed a joke which came off - likening the prime minister to a dodgy plumber for his U-turns over Europe.

He had better just pray there isn't a burst pipe in Conservative Central Office any time soon.




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