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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 April, 2005, 08:50 GMT 09:50 UK
Prime minister's questions: Your reaction
The House of Commons during the final prime minister's questions before the election
Britain's main party leaders have faced each other in the last prime minister's questions before the election, with the economy and tax the flashpoint of the encounter.

Tony Blair said Labour was the party of economic competence and accused the Tories of "running away" from debating the issue.

But Tory Michael Howard said Labour had broken their last poll pledges, while Lib Dems Charles Kennedy said they had been unfair to students and pensioners.

With a television debate between the party leaders ruled out, Wednesday's session was their only chance for a head-on confrontation before 5 May.

What did you think of the issues raised during prime minister's questions? How did each leader come across? Will it affect how you vote in the general election? Send us your comments.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

Love PM's Question Time - best comedy of the week on the box. Yes Minister often made more sense and that was fictional comedy.
R Howard, Milton Keynes

Whoever can show that the economy is in their safe hands get my vote. The electorate has to realistic to make this judgement. Otherwise, we wake up the next morning regretting the wrong choice where jobs and livelihood are at stake.
Mary King, Dover UK

Michael Howard was great in the Commons
Callum, Skegness, Lincolnshire
Michael Howard was great in the Commons. It was by far the best performance by an MP in the house for a long time.
Callum, Skegness, Lincolnshire

I have to say Labour has not suffered a worldwide recession during its terms in power. They've had it comparatively easy so far. Untested I would say.
Ian, Fleet, UK

Blair said "Labour is the party of economic competence". Absolute rubbish, they inherited a strong economy and it's taken seven years to ruin it through stealth taxes, excessive red tape imposed on industry and stupid legislation from Brussels.
David O'Brien, Surrey

Wonderful. Having lived in the UK for five years, I'm so happy to see the UK politics put into high gear. I know that there are strong passions right down to the village level. At the same time it's great to see one of the World's greatest, and most entertaining, democracies at work. It doesn't matter who goes to Number 10, like it or not, we're right there with you.
Walter Wilson, Charleston, SC, USA

What a wonderful sight it was to see Mr Howard in full flow. His mauling of Tony Blair was the most satisfying parliamentary spectacle for a long time.
Mark, Folkestone

I don't understand Michael Howard's point re Blair's image on election literature. Surely after eight years in power everyone in Britain knows he's the prime minister and leader of the Labour Party?
Peter, Nottingham

It's splendid knock-about stuff!!
Nick Dixey, Cayman Islands
There are always those looking down their noses and complaining about 'Pantomime Politics' and the standard of debate at PMQs. Come off it!! It's splendid knock-about stuff!! It takes considerable debating skill to make points in a concise, punchy, hard-hitting way in the very limited time available. It tests the leaders' mettle under real fire and is a splendid British spectacle.
Nick Dixey, Cayman Islands (ex-pat Brit)

They behave like an unruly classroom of 5 year olds. How will I vote? I am a lone parent working part-time with a 19 year old disabled son attending a 3rd year at 6th form school. My son was 19 last October and, according to the law, I no longer have an allowance for him, only a single person allowance for myself. I am waiting for one of the leaders to tell me how I can possibly, feed myself and my son, pay both our fares to work and school respectively and pay my bills, full council tax and rent on a single person income of 55 per week!!
Stephanie, London, UK

The only time things will ever change for the better is when we can come up with a better system than a popularity contest every 4 or 5 years. This simply ensures that the win will go to the side that can lie in the most convincing manner. Hardly a ringing endorsement of their ability to govern.
Neil Wilkes, London, England

Well done Mr Howard! Tony Blair's been needing taking down a peg or two for a long time, and it finally happened. I truly believe that whilst previous Tory governments have royally failed us, this is the one that will finally neutralise the acidity of the past 8 years.
Suzi, Telford

Howard gave a master class in how to get the most out of PMQs
Godfrey, UK
Howard gave a master class in how to get the most out of PMQs. You only had to look at the faces and body language of the Labour MPs (particularly Prescott, to Blair's right) to see how well Howard did!
Godfrey, UK

The last PMQs before the election was like a monkey's tea party, except a monkey's tea party would be more civilised! It is week in and week out, a sad and sorry reminder to me about what devalues my vote when supposedly intelligent human beings prefer to shout than debate. My grandmothers were suffragettes; my grandfather fought in the war, so that I could live in a 'democracy'. More than devaluing my vote, this whole process devalues what they fought and died for.
Girlie Wilkin, Colchester, UK

Blair tries to score points on how well the economy has done under Labour. If it's done so well, why are we having to borrow so much money to prop it up?
Derek, Newark UK

Wonderful! Everyone knows that PMQs is a public show, and not really typical of what goes on in Parliament - so enjoy the spectacle of two excellent orators pitting their skills against each other. That said, I thought Tony Blair came off much worse in the fight: his refusal to answer questions, never something he's good at, was particularly evident today. No wonder that he doesn't want a TV debate with Mr. Howard; it would be far too embarrassing for him to allow such a public humiliation, which is what it would be. I'm looking forward to the election campaign, personally, it should be interesting.
Gregory, Oxford, UK

I was horrified at how smug and sanctimonious Michael Howard was
Craig Stewart, Clydebank
I was horrified at how smug and sanctimonious Michael Howard was, indulging in very un-prime ministerial behaviour. I would have expected better of someone at kindergarten. Howard would be an insult to this very high office - if he ever got in by default - and I was particularly disgusted at him trying to make cheap political capital out of the MRSA super virus. How low can you go?!
Craig Stewart, Clydebank

No real election issues were discussed, but it was fantastic entertainment that can only be rivalled by the Italian and Turkish parliaments. I wish PMQs in the Spanish and Catalan parliaments were this entertaining. I give Howard a points win on the debate, but no-one seriously believes he can win the election.
Timothy Barton, Barcelona, Catalonia

How can people be so dismissive about heated political debate in action? Yes it's noisy, yes it's rude but this is people getting passionate about politics. Keep it coming I say!
Alex, Leeds, UK

Blair is competent at the despatch box but keeps blaming the Tories of eight years ago for his failings and no-one believes him. Mr Howard has already been insulted but then again can a leopard change his spots? Charles Kennedy claims the moral High ground but the reality is that the Lib Dems will only ever be a spoiler for the Conservatives. I think we will have achieved a great deal if the public get a hung parliament and Blair is forced to resign
Tony, Kent

So Michael Howard thinks, having your picture on election leaflets is very important? I thought elections were about policies, not personalities.
Mike Rogers, Liverpool

Michael Howard today reinforced that he is the next Prime Minister in waiting. Mr Blair could only huff and puff but he could not blow Mr Howard down. Mr Blair's record on tax, immigration, crime, health and pensions is deplorable and it is no wonder he will avoid answering any questions on those topics and would only refer to 10 years ago.
Chris Kellaway, Poole, UK

Good entertainment but none of it had any real relevance to the issues that need to be debated
John Renshaw, Worcester, UK
Audience participation in Prime Minister's questions - whatever next? Perhaps MPs could take a leaf out of the crowd at a cricket match holding up a 'six' for a particularly well bowled question or answer. Mr Howard's well aimed shot on the use of Mr Blair's image on Labour campaign literature caught the Labour outfield napping. In future they'd do well to stay awake and actually listen to what's being said - by doing a Mexican wave perhaps. A points win for Mr Howard on the day. Good entertainment but none of it had any real relevance to the issues that need to be debated in the campaign.
John Renshaw, Worcester, UK

PMQs is a farce most weeks. What matters is what is done and not what is said. On that basis I continue to support Labour as the party that acts with a social conscience. Michael Howard gives the impression and, more importantly, has a track record of not knowing what social justice is.
Chris, Surrey. UK.

Michael Howard and his cronies behaved like children
Neville Gregory, Manchester, United Kingdom
I think Michael Howard and his cronies behaved like children, getting people to put their hands up and down like in a primary school.
Neville Gregory, Manchester, United Kingdom

Michael Howard was spot on really with his points, BUT can we trust him? I don't trust Blair.
Robert Sims, Abertillery

I saw the debate at lunchtime and was horrified by the childish behaviour of the two main parties. And they wonder why people don't respect politicians. If this election is going to continue to be based on name-calling and panto style dramatics, I am relieved I don't have a TV at home.
Katie, London

Blair saying how great Labour has made the economy is insulting our intelligence
Barton Stacy, Basingstoke
A fabulous entertainment - it made me remember the last day of the school year and all the release of tension. Blair saying how great Labour has made the economy is insulting our intelligence. They inherited a "golden Chalice" from a far better Chancellor than Brown and expect us to believe that they have created the prosperity found today. They have been simply stewards of a successful existing enterprise. We are not stupid, stupid!
Barton Stacy, Basingstoke

Despite the fact that I believe Michael Howard won the final debate through clever pre-thought tactics, the fact remains that he barely stated specific Conservative policies to solve the problems.
Jack Lankester, Luton, England

PMQs was a joke, at one point it was like the magnificent men in their flying machines
Mark, Aldershot, UK
PMQs was a joke, at one point it was like the magnificent men in their flying machines with all the up diddly-up ups and down-diddley-down-downs. Michael Howard had a good point about the Labour candidates who were not using Tony Blair's image on their newsletters. I am pleased to see that the public will be able to ask questions directly on Question Time, there isn't enough of this in modern Britain. When the public is involved there is always the possibility of a 'Handbagging'. I hope that one of the first questions for each of the leaders is 'Why are you all not on stage simultaneously?' I don't want a US style debate, it's too controlled, but a 'Question Time' style debate with the party leaders there simultaneously? That'd be something.
Mark, Aldershot, UK

"They are like a bunch of children whose dummy has been taken away"
Independent, London, UK

Blair at PMQs looked like the man he is - on the run. Gutless to face Howard and Kennedy in a televised debate, he gives the impression of being shifty and having something hide. Roll on May 5th.
David Pickles, Surrey, UK

Tony Blair has shown his mettle at various sessions of question time and came out of the last PMQs before the general election smelling of roses. The same cannot be said of Michael Howard. Charles Kennedy did far better than the Conservative leader. Howard has shot himself on the leg by sacking Howard Flight and is hardly likely to recover!
Pancha Chandra, Brussels, Belgium

I watch PMQs every week and today's was the best I have ever seen. Michael Howard asked perfectly normal questions (Charles Kennedy asked the same questions) to which all Blair could say was look at our 'economic record' - is he scared that he might lose the election? As he was certainly showing it by not answering any of the questions asked today.
Kevin Bedford, Pagham, England

Howard gave a truly commanding performance
Steven, Belfast
PMQs today was one of the best ever. Howard gave a truly commanding performance showing just how out of touch Blair has become over the issues facing the country and why his time is up. The PM looked rattled, exhausted and, as ever, refused to answer any questions. Perhaps today's session demonstrates why he's avoiding, like the plague, a face-to-face TV debate with the other party leaders chaired by someone who will actually demand some answers of him, rather than the same old rhetoric about the 80s and 90s. Britain forward not back!
Steven, Belfast

When will Charles Kennedy and Michael Howard have a similar chance to argue with each other? Surely the battle for the opposition is greater than it's ever been and I'd love to see Charles Kennedy get some put downs on Mr Howard.
Ben Morrison, London

I'm glad we have PMQs as it is often very engaging. But this was not politics; this was a boorish speech at a Rugby dinner. The Tories came across as louts. I know they're trying to convince us they're ready to govern again. But if this is part of their new image, they've screwed up royally. I can't vote for a party that behaves like that in parliament. Unbelievable!
Abbey Stapleton, St Albans

If Blair keeps it up he'll see off another Tory leader
SI, Merseyside
Excellent drama. If Blair keeps it up he'll see off another Tory leader. To be fair to Howard though, he gave as good as he got. Cheerful Charlie left on the sidelines as usual.
SI, Merseyside

The only person missing on PMQs is Jerry Springer. What a dire, unfunny joke.
MRJ, Cardiff

Today, I realised after listening to PMQs, what children our two major party leaders are. I am ashamed to see the antics that both Blair and Howard get up to. It would be better to vote for either Tom or Jerry as they seem grown up by comparison.
Steve Sharples, Amblecote

Few people bother to read in detail what the parties have to offer
Mike P, Leeds, UK

You get the politicians you deserve - they are a mirror to our celebrity-obsessed, tittle tattle trivia, sound-bite culture. Few people bother to read in detail what the parties have to offer - despite info being easier than ever to access. They're much too busy watching Celebrity Ice-Dance Idol or such like.
Mike P, Leeds, UK

I want to see a great televised debate, with all three leaders, where they would have to answer the questions asked. No spin, just a straight answer. That is how you will get my vote.
Phillip Evans, Wales

I loved PMQs. Compared to the US where we see no interaction at all it is so refreshing - enjoy it for what it is! A "US style" debate would be useful too though.
Edward, Philadelphia, PA

Every party seems to be focusing on either families, pensioners, asylum seekers and travellers. But what about me? The single 20 year old who is having to scrimp and save what he can on the minimum wage just to pay the rent. Who can't afford a house and doesn't want to be a burden to his parents. We've got another 45 years of work ahead of us and at the moment we seem to be overlooked.
Michael Morton, Leeds

It hardly filled out its purpose did it. PMQs is meant to be a mechanism in place to keep the government accountable and yet it was used for cheap political point scoring. The whole system needs overhauling, it does not work.
Adam, Swindon, UK

Childish, boorish, arrogant pantomime behaviour
Paul Mitchell, Glasgow, Scotland
I have just watched PMQ. If anyone is still wondering why our politicians are held in such low esteem in the UK there you had your answer; childish, boorish, arrogant pantomime behaviour, at its worst. I really do despair.
Paul Mitchell, Glasgow, Scotland

Huge personal debt, huge student debt. The Labour government has led by example, huge government debt! Inheritance tax must stay to reduce inherited government debt. The paltry offer to the pensioners' community tax is a drop in the ocean compared to what they have taken from the pension fund and, as always, a fixed figure rather than a percentage, is of far greater value to our friends in the North than it is to our friends in the South!
J. Hazlehurst, Littlehampton

Michael Howard needs to take a tougher line on 'yob culture' if he hopes to win the vote of the decent, law abiding person. Does he really think that someone who is in breach of an ASBO will really care that their driving licence has been revoked? Of course not. They will most likely continue to drive unlicensed and probably uninsured.
James, Wiltshire, UK

Can any of the parties be trusted? Tony Blair tries to defend the indefensible, Michael Howard just appears to make personalised jibes and Charles Kennedy is too busy trying not to upset anyone. All three leaders seam to be playing a personality-over-policies game as they and their parties have all run out of new ideas. Can we not add 'none of the above' to the ballot paper?
Justin Beswick, Burnley, Lancs

Fantastic stuff. This is what I want to see. And people say politics is boring. Rubbish!
Warren Tarling, East Grinstead

They need to be positive about the country, the people and their policies
Peter Ruddick, Chichester
I have to say that I will look forward to the day when politicians of every colour realise that such pantomime, adversarial, negative behaviour much like the performance in the House today and what we will see in the campaign is not appreciated by the public at all. They need to be positive about the country, the people and their policies and stop this daft acting - we voters hate it.
Peter Ruddick, Chichester

Surely there is only one fair way to decide the election - 'I'm a politician, get me out of here!' Send the three leaders to the jungle in Australia and see how they cope with the challenges. In fact, just send the three leaders to Australia anyway!
Graham North, Bristol

Only Charles Kennedy raised a serious issue: pensions. Michael Howard was trying too hard to score cheap political points.
Stuart, London, UK

I have just realised that I am already tired of hearing about this election campaign! I will do my democratic duty and vote (even though currently undecided) but I'm not sure I can cope with another 29 days of the childish slagging match that has already begun.
Charles A, Maidenhead UK

A head-to-head debate between the party leaders adds nothing to the decision
Stephen, Hampshire, UK
In the election we will not be voting for a party or a leader. We are voting for individual candidates. This should be made clear to the electorate. A head-to-head debate between the party leaders adds nothing to the decision, as they aren't standing in the same constituency!
Stephen, Hampshire

Michael Howard argues like a petulant child. I can't imagine wanting him leading the country.
Leigh, Gatwick

It's interesting that the PM has decided to launch his campaign on the economy and think that alone will win the election for him. After all, the state of the economy was inherited from the Tories in 1997. I would have thought that he would have rather heralded his party's commitment to increasing spending on health, but I guess that simply pouring extra billions into unreformed institutions are not the sort of discussions he wants to pursue.
Andrew, UK

I think that Michael Howard and the Conservative frontbench had one of the best Tory PMQs to date. Like always, they had Blair's record on show and yet again, he could say nothing other than point to events 20 years ago. He had no answer to any of his broken promises and as a medical student, his lie over top fees is a total disgrace.
Luke Baker, University of St Andrews

Michael Howard turned it into a pantomime. This is one step worse than his normal sixth form debating society points scoring.
Peter, London, UK

What a thrilling PMQs. It is a relief that Mr Blair can now be beaten in the Commons. The more he dodges the questions, the more skilled and capable Mr Howard looks. Finally a contest!
James, Chesterfield, Derbyshire

PMQs isn't really a proper debate as Blair infrequently tries to ask questions rather than answer them. This country needs one or two televised live debates like in the US. That would generate some hype and possibly engage more voters.
Matt Johnson, Sheffield, S Yorks

Blair and Howard behave like a couple of grinning clowns. They know whichever of them gets elected it won't make any difference. I will be voting for the Legalise Cannabis Alliance, a new party with a new approach.
Alun Buffry, Norwich

Michael Howard won this debate, Tony Blair looked like he had adopted a low key stance. This is dangerous ground, as this ploy can show you as not being effectual. Charles Kennedy showed just how inept he really is, given his chance, he focused on only one issue; women's pensions, important as this may be, but not THE most important issue.
E. Harrison, Lancs, UK

I thought the PM came off rather well, simply because he quoted the facts: Labour is much better for schools the NHS and the economy. The only problem is people forgetting what the Tories are like.
Andrew, Aberystwyth

I think that all three leaders should be put in 'the' chair like on Mastermind and questioned by Jeremy Paxman. It would be very interesting to see which leader could answer the most questions with a 'yes' or a 'no' answer!
Adrian Vickery, Hove

Now that the price of a gallon of diesel has exceeded 4, do any of the leaders have plans to ease the tax burden on companies and the ordinary motorist, or will the next government be met with a new upsurge of protests at the price of fuel?
Chris Dowling, Milton Keynes Bucks

Having just watched PMQs, I'm not really sure that I saw anything of any substance. It seems to be an occasion for the party leaders to have a go at one another, rather than have any real debate. I suppose its theatrical nature may stir up peoples' interest - but does it actually achieve much?
Andrew Stirling, Glasgow, Scotland

Who can I trust to tell the truth?
Doreen Swift, Cheshire, UK
I have just watched PMQs and I think politicians are a lot of children. Who can I trust to tell the truth? Who will attach state pensions to earnings instead of having handouts?
Doreen Swift, Cheshire, England

I thought the debate answered little, although the candidates had a fair old dig at each other. Didn't show Charles Kennedy in a very good light, didn't seem to have much to say for himself. Michael Howard was firing on all cylinders, and conducting his opposition like the old dame in the pantomime.
Sandy Wilson, Dunfermline, UK

It was a gladiatorial and expected high tempo affair. I enjoyed watching this last PM question time. Howard came out strong, yet Blair continues to impress with his emphasis on economy and how well this Labour government has done with regards to that. Whilst Charles Kennedy was kept on the sideline almost, his party brought up issues that actually matter to the people.
Fateha, London

I, for one, think that the leaders of the three main parties should be part of an organised and televised debate. This would not only enable people to compare the parties but also get more people interested in voting in the first place.
Adrian, Coventry, England



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