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Tuesday, June 2, 1998 Published at 10:43 GMT 11:43 UK

UK Politics: News

Dobson faces Widdecombe in first Commons clash

Dobson: Commons clash with Widdecombe

By BBC News online's Nick Assinder.

Backbench MPs are eagerly awaiting the first Commons head-to-head between Health Secretary Frank Dobson and his new opposite number, Ann Widdecombe.

The exchange is scheduled for 2.30pm BST (1.30pm GMT) and you can watch and hear it live from that time by clicking on Parliament Live in the right-hand navigation bar.

Tory leader William Hague brought Miss Widdecombe back into the shadow cabinet on Monday as part of his bid to give ministers a run for their money in key areas.

And there is little doubt that the regular clashes between the two front benchers will provide some of the most lively and robust Commons set-pieces.

Old Labour

Mr Dobson is an unrepentant Old Labour figure, dubbed as Labour's "Uncle Albert" for his bushy white beard and robust language, and is not known for ducking a political fight.

He has managed to retain his politcal credibility despite presiding over growing hospital waiting lists which fly in the face of the government's election pledge to reduce them.

His disarming manner endears him to voters and his willingness to admit he is "embarrassed" by the figures has done him no damage.

Miss Widdecombe is equally independent minded and dealt a devastating blow to her former Home Office boss Michael Howard when she claimed in the Commons last year that he had "something of the night" about him.

Her dour appearance has earned her her own nickname - Doris Karloff - but she is widely respected on both sides of the Commons.

She has proved one of the most effective opponents to the Labour government since the election and will relish taking on a fellow individualist.

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