The task Blair set himself was quite a simple one, unimaginatively and a little smugly carried out; first to put Major on the spot over VAT, then to ask his increasingly familiar third question, on whether we could have an election soon.
Major's manner is not magisterial enough to sweep aside direct and precise questions from the opposition in the way that his predecessor could, and given that, he was bound to be put on the spot by yesterday's questions.
Blair asked Major to confirm whether or not the Government had broken VAT pledges made before the last election - "yes or no"? All Major could do was say that Blair was "mistaken in the implications he is trying to draw".
THEMES OF THE DAY
VAT on food (The Labour Party)
Joining the single currency (Paddy Ashdown)
Police (sentencing) Bill (Richard Tracey, C, Surbiton)
Proposed merger between BA and American Airlines (John Wilkinson, C, Ruislip Northwood)
1,300 redundancies at Ford (Jane Kennedy, Lab, Liverpool Broadgreen)
GOOD DAY... ...BAD DAY
(C. Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
A five-question tirade against Labour's tax policy had MPs shielding their ears. As Major observed, he "made his point extremely clearly".
Angela Eagle (Lab, Wallasey) attracted Major's ire by consistently mocking his answers. She fired him up enough to produce his most robust reply of the day, and the shouts from Conservative benches were still going on as MPs left the chamber.
THE UNANSWERED QUESTION
Six of Labour's seven questions were essentially the same - whether Major promised not to raise VAT before the last election, and then did so. He did of course, and of course would not own up.
THE QUIP OF THE DAY
Following Nigel Evans's (C, Ribble Valley) attack on Labour spending, Major took over the baton, demanding that Labour cost their commitments. As he paused for breath, David Shaw (C, Dover) piped up, "It'll all end in tears", quoting the poster campaign launched at the start of the year.
THE CREEP OF THE DAY
Tracey cracked the Government's whip on law and order, claiming that "only the party of government is in favour of measures against criminals in this country". This enabled Major to take a dig at "the would-be coalition partners", triumphing with his soundbite "by their votes they should be judged".Reuse content