[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 May, 2004, 12:47 GMT 13:47 UK
Prime minister's questions
Sketch
By Nick Assinder
BBC News Online Political Correspondent

Michael Howard had his metaphorical purple, or should that be true blue, powder lined up and ready to chuck at the prime minister.

leaders wer in election mode
The first volley sailed right over the prime minister's head, disappearing somewhere into the no man's land of cross-party consensus (over Iraq sovereignty in this particular case).

The others hit their target fair and square - but bounced off and landed with an audible flop on the floor at the prime minister's feet.

The assault was all about Labour's record on Europe - and was part of the campaign leading up to the elections for the Brussels parliament in a couple of weeks' time.

And he failed to throw his final missile, using only five of his six allotted questions.

Glancing blow

From his position a little further away Charles Kennedy took aim and flung his question about Iraq sovereignty - over its prisons in this case - but it too failed to raise much of a cloud.

Health Secretary John Reid, always nowadays apparently at the prime minister's shoulder, did not need to offer Mr Blair a supporting hand this time.

Michael Howard
Howard agrred with Blair on Iraq
And the front bench remained entirely unrattled. Even MPs - now hardened after last week's events - were unmoved.

After the purple powder attack - which is really no joking matter - it was all rather dull, predictable electioneering.

So thank heavens for Labour backbencher, former minister and pro-fox hunter Kate Hoey.

She lobbed not dyed flour but the verbal equivalent of a brick. And it caught the PM just a glancing blow behind his left ear.

Nervous glances

Why, she demanded, was he not meeting the Dalai Lama while he was in town. Was it because he had been told not to by the Chinese?

No it was not, said the prime minister. He had met the Dalai Lama before and would probably do so again one day.

Inevitably there were a few nervous glances up at the galleries from some MPs.

But, as Speaker Martin announced just before the session began, things have been tightened up since last week's attack.

Guests can pretty much only get in now if he has personally invited them.

The nervousness did not, needless to say, stop our brave administrators from attending the question time session in their usual numbers.

But with the local, mayoral and European parliament elections looming - and a week's recess just around the corner - things were both predictable and lacklustre in the extreme.




SEE ALSO:
Protest shocks the Commons
19 May 04 |  Politics
Prime minister's questions
05 May 04 |  Politics
Prime minister's questions
28 Apr 04 |  Politics
Prime minister's questions
21 Apr 04 |  Politics
Prime Ministers Questions
31 Mar 04 |  Politics
Prime Ministers Questions
24 Mar 04 |  Politics
Prime Ministers Questions
10 Mar 04 |  Politics
Prime Ministers Questions
25 Feb 04 |  Politics


RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific