[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 January 2005, 13:09 GMT
Prime minister's questions
Sketch
By Nick Assinder
Political Correspondent, BBC News website

So that has cleared that up.

All a question of trust, again
Gordon Brown never ever told the prime minister he could never ever trust anything he ever said again. Ever.

We know that is true because, for the first time since the allegation was made in a new book, the prime minister unequivocally, unhesitatingly said so.

Challenged by Michael Howard over the claimed comment, Mr Blair said: "He did not say that to me. The claim in the book happens to be wrong."

Right. Next question. Did the prime minister ever tell the chancellor he would stand down before the next election?

Unequivocally, unhesitatingly, the prime minister fudged it.

He had already dealt with this question, he claimed. "No one does deals on jobs like these."

Happy eater

Precisely why the prime minister cannot bring himself to state that this claim, also, is just not true continues to baffle.

The chancellor, of course, is in Africa. So it was not possible to read his expression to judge just how he was responding to the questions and answers.

Michael Howard
Mr Howard taunted over new book
Still, the exchange allowed Mr Howard to get in his soundbite that the prime minister did all these deals over dinner so had become "the deals on meals prime minister - no wonder the chancellor is not a happy eater".

Yet, despite an apparently open goal for Mr Howard, the entire exchange was pretty unsatisfying.

The prime minister's tactic of reeling out a list of his government's achievements cannily takes some of the impetus out of the opposition leader's attacks.

Mind you, Mr Howard now has a decent response - "He goes on and on about these things, but no one believes a word he says".

Run out

And as for television viewers, the sight of Jack Straw and John Prescott urging Mr Howard to get up and ask even more questions might suggest they believe their man had trounced his tormentor.

The fact that they do it only when Mr Howard has run out of his allotted number of questions possibly goes unnoticed.

Charles Kennedy
Kennedy couldn't resist a jibe
The claimed rift between Mr Blair and Mr Brown was the obvious line of attack and is bound to feature large in the election - which Mr Blair made clear was imminent.

Even Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy could not resist it.

He kicked off with a far more considered question about Mr Brown's aid plans for Africa, but ended by throwing the chancellor's alleged rift with Mr Blair back at the prime minister.

So there it was - probably the opening salvo between the three men who will soon be leading their parties into a general election.

It promises to be a particularly nasty, personal campaign. At least as nasty and personal as, well, the last one.




SEE ALSO:
Prime minister's questions
15 Dec 04 |  UK Politics
Prime minister's questions
01 Dec 04 |  UK Politics
Prime minister's questions
17 Nov 04 |  UK Politics
Prime minister's questions
10 Nov 04 |  UK Politics
Prime minister's questions
03 Nov 04 |  UK Politics
Prime minister's questions
27 Oct 04 |  UK Politics
Prime minister's questions
20 Oct 04 |  UK Politics
Prime minister's questions
13 Oct 04 |  UK Politics
Prime minister's questions
08 Sep 04 |  UK Politics
Prime minister's questions
21 Jul 04 |  UK Politics
Prime minister's questions
14 Jul 04 |  UK Politics
Prime minister's questions
07 Jul 04 |  UK Politics
Prime minister's questions
26 May 04 |  UK Politics
Prime minister's questions
30 Jun 04 |  UK Politics
Prime minister's questions
23 Jun 04 |  UK Politics
Prime minister's questions
16 Jun 04 |  UK Politics
Prime minister's questions
09 Jun 04 |  UK Politics
Protest shocks the Commons
19 May 04 |  UK Politics
Prime minister's questions
05 May 04 |  UK Politics
Prime minister's questions
28 Apr 04 |  UK Politics
Prime minister's questions
21 Apr 04 |  UK Politics
Prime Ministers Questions
31 Mar 04 |  UK Politics
Prime Ministers Questions
24 Mar 04 |  UK Politics
Prime Ministers Questions
10 Mar 04 |  UK Politics
Prime Ministers Questions
25 Feb 04 |  UK Politics


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


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific