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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 December, 2003, 13:18 GMT
Prime Ministers Questions

By Nick Assinder
BBC News Online political correspondent

Well the idea of an opposition leader's question time gets my vote.

A blinging clash
Frankly, anything that allows the leaders of any and all parties to be put on the spot in the chamber of the Commons would be a refreshing boost to democracy.

It might also stop the Commons declining further into complete redundancy.

So Michael Howard's challenge for the government to give him his own 30 minutes "any day of the week" should be seized on.

Why not go the whole hog. Let's have a Lib Dem leader's question time, and an SNP, Plaid Cymru, UUP, DUP, SDLP and even perhaps a Sinn Fein leader's question time.

Spending cuts

It won't happen of course. There is no way the government will connive at anything that would hand the other parties any more exposure.

Worse, it would deprive Tony Blair of one of his greatest tricks during his own question time sessions.

Since virtually the day he came to power, and then abolished the twice-weekly question time sessions, the prime minister has constantly been accused of flatly refusing to answer questions in what is, after all, called prime minister's question time.

Instead, he attempts to turn the tables by demanding to know, for example, where the Tories would make their spending cuts.

Michael Howard has finally decided to try and kill off that tactic - and it may just work.

Then there was the fascinating exchange between the prime minister and Lib Dem David Heath who reminded Mr Blair of their time together at Oxford.

In what was presumably meant as a joke, the prime minister suggested they should draw a veil over what they got up to at university.

Now that is going to backfire.

I can hear the cogs of tabloid newspaper editors' brains moving into top gear already.




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