Blair is preoccupied with headlines and spin, says Howard

Michael Howard challenged Tony Blair to deliver on his promises yesterday as he mocked the Queen's Speech, declaring: "Haven't we heard it all before?"

Michael Howard challenged Tony Blair to deliver on his promises yesterday as he mocked the Queen's Speech, declaring: "Haven't we heard it all before?"

The Conservative leader accused government ministers of being preoccupied with "talk, spin and headlines", telling Mr Blair: "What the country wants to know is, when will you deliver?" But the Prime Minister hit back angrily, accusing the Conservatives of promoting the politics of fantasy.

Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, attacked plans for a package of anti-crime and terror legislation, likening the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, to the Republican neoconservatives in the White House.

The Queen's Speech debate took on the atmosphere of a pre-election hustings as Mr Howard launched an assault on the Government's record, insisting that families were paying more tax but were not getting "value for money".

He said: "Hard-working families are paying the equivalent of £5,000 a year more in tax. But what have they got to show for it? A million patients still on NHS waiting lists, a million children playing truant from school and a million violent crimes. It's no wonder that hard-working families feel hard pressed and hard done by under this government. People are fed up with talk; they want action."

Mr Howard demanded to know when Labour would deliver on its promises, more than seven years after the party came to power. He said: "If it took Winston Churchill five years to win the Second World War, and if it took Clement Attlee six years to build the welfare state, surely seven and a half years is more than enough for you to get a grip on the problems that face Britain today.

"In a year or so we're going to have an election when people will say: 'We've paid a lot of taxes but what's really been achieved with all that money?'"

He mocked the Government's plans for a draft anti-terror Bill, asking why ministers were waiting to introduce legislation and chided Mr Blair over asylum policy. Mr Howard said: "We have a government which admits that the law needs to be changed, but not yet; a government which says protection from terrorism is a priority, but not yet; a government which says we'll take action to keep you safe, but not yet."

He added: "How can he keep a straight face talking about security when he is going to cut our armed forces and disband historic regiments, including the Black Watch?"

But Mr Blair attacked the Conservatives for publishing options for tax cuts and public service savings while refusing to commit themselves to policies, and said planned Tory savings were already under way in his government. Mr Blair said Tories wanted to spend £1.3bn extra on police through immigration and asylum savings by processing all claims abroad.

But no country would agree to this, the Prime Minister said. "We start with fantasy tax cuts, we then have fantasy spending, we then have fantasy savings and now we have got a fantasy country. Fantasy policies are amusing for a fantasy government, but supposing it became a reality. Then the fantasy becomes a fraud on the British people and is no longer amusing but dangerous. It would be back to the failed polices of the past."

He said to Mr Howard: "You are not the hope of a successful Tory future because you are the reincarnation of a failed Tory past."

Mr Blair tried to deflect claims about the Government's concentration on anti-crime and terrorist legislation. He said: "It's said that these measures are scaremongering, but the fact is that the threats faced by the country and every other major country around the world are real."

But Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, accused the Home Secretary of undermining liberal opinion in the country. He said: "If you look at Britain today in so many ways, reflected by much of the legislation we have been passing here on same-sex relationships and on other matters too, Britain today is a much more liberal society in its attitudes and aspirations. The Home Secretary seems to have lost that plot or indeed is seeking to undermine that development."

* Tony Blair is planning to hold the general election on 5 May next year, according to reports in The Sun. The spring election is due to coincide with local elections and will put to an end to speculation that the Prime Minister was considering delaying the vote until autumn. Peter Hain, leader of the Commons, yesterday said that none of the measures in the Queen's Speech would be made law in time for a May election.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor