YESTERDAY, of the eighteen questions put to Mr Blair at Prime Minister's Questions, about eight could be disregarded as simply lobs put up by Labour backbenchers for him to smash - one was so blatantly so that the Speaker stopped the MP in loquacious midstream and told him he was just saying that the Prime Minister was doing a good job. Of the other ten, three from Michael Howard, inviting the Prime Minister to disown Conservative Members of the European Parliament who had twice voted against their party's policy, were simply ignored by Mr Blair who blithely responded on totally unrelated matters.

Earlier, Mr Howard had played his statesman's role, saying that he fully agreed with the Prime Minister's position on Iraqi sovereignty and the relationship between the new caretaker government and the remaining coalition forces. This demonstrated Mr Howard's intellectual superiority. To most people, what Mr Blair said at his press conference on Tuesday was not what he said in the House of Commons yesterday - that “full sovereignty should be transferred to the Iraqi people” while the multinational force of some 250'000 troops “should remain under American command”. A strange kind of sovereignty that depends for its security and stability on foreign forces not under its control.

Almost the only Conservative question which Mr Blair treated with respect was one from Tony Baldry MP (a visitor to Majorca some years ago) who suggested that a Commission on the breakdown of understanding between the West and the Islamic world was just as important as the one on Africa recently set up by the Government. Mr Blair agreed and said he hoped the matter would be discussed at next month's G8 meeting in the United States.


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