Smith's wit delights Labour

THOUGH Labour would hardly complain, Norman Lamont's resignation speech overshadowed the party's set- piece debate accusing the Prime Minister of betraying election promises and calling for new economic policies.

John Smith said it was as effective a speech as Mr Lamont had made in office. Setting the mocking, witty tone that marked his attack on the Government's conduct and delighted his backbenchers, the Labour leader lit on Mr Lamont's criticism of short- term decisions and his wish to distance politicians from monetary policy. 'It did flick across my mind there might have been the odd political influence affecting himself at the time of the 1992 Budget, especially when you compare it with the 1993 Budget. He was no doubt, as he constantly reminded us, acting upon orders.'

Election promises ruling out increases in taxation and cuts in public spending had proved a 'false prospectus', Mr Smith said. Dismissing Tory accusations of 'scaremongering', he said one catastrophe had been piled on another.

'Not even the most inventive and ruthless scaremonger would have had the audacity to allege that any government could be so consistently incompetent, so hopelessly accident prone, so foolishly inept,' he said, citing the billions of pounds lost on Black Wednesday, the 'disastrous' pit closures, the 'shady double-dealing' in the Matrix Churchill affair, the 'hopelessly bungled' saga of school tests and the 'disaster waiting to happen' in rail privatisation.

John Major tried to wound Mr Smith with the criticisms made by John Edmonds, leader of the GMB union, and accused Labour of frightening people. 'In the Labour Party the scare stories come from the top. Behind that moral righteousness is someone who has no scruples whatsoever.'

The Prime Minister drew praise from Sir Peter Tapsell, a senior Tory backbencher, for assertions that the circumstances for Britain's re-entry into the European exchange rate mechanism would not apply 'for some years ahead'.

However it was only Mr Major's response to his former Chancellor that commanded MPs' attention. 'I believe history will look favourably on Mr Lamont's economic and financial skills,' he said - drawing Opposition shouts of 'Why did you sack him then?'

'But a strong government needs political skills as well when leading a democratic society and, in particular, handling a lively House of Commons with a small majority.'

Paddy Ashdown, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said that what MPs had heard and seen was 'nothing less than the beginning of the end of Mr Major's premiership . . .'

John Biffen, a former Tory Cabinet minister, advocated a tax rise of at least 2p on the standard rate to help reduce the pounds 50bn public sector borrowing requirement.

Winding up the debate, Kenneth Clarke, the new Chancellor, drew a distinction between public statements by ministers and manifesto commitments. 'The manifesto contained no word about VAT or National Insurance contributions,' he said.

Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Support Technician (2nd Line / Server Support) - Bedford

£24000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: 2nd line IT Support Techn...


£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to have a b...

Year 3 Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: KS2 TeacherWould you like ...

Science Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Are you a qualified science t...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments