by RAY FLEMING
IT was quite like old times in the House of Commons yesterday. With David Cameron on paternity leave his place was taken by William Hague who may not have won an election against Mr Blair but certainly bettered him at Prime Minister's Questions more than once. Mr Hague started off on top form with a cracker: It's the first time at Prime Minister's Questions that all parties have been represented by a stand-in for the real leader. But when the laughter subsided some constitutionally-minded observers may have been wondering why was it not Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott who faced Mr Hague, rather than Mr Blair. For some reason, the Conservatives do not even have a deputy leader although Mr Hague is described as Senior Member of the Cabinet. However, as Question Time progressed it became clear why Mr Blair wanted to be on duty, regardless of who he faced. If it had been Iain Duncan Smith he wouldn't have minded. He wanted to be able to push the case for the reinstatement of the glorification of terrorism clause in the Bill due to be be debated later in the day and he managed to find a link to the need for the glorification offence in a surprising number of questions that initially seemed to have little to do with terrorism. Mr Blair is increasingly showing his irritation at those in Parliament and outside it who do not automatically share his view of the legislation needed to fight terrorism. But he really cannot complain if people question his judgement and do not trust him. Yesterday Lord Carlile, parliament's official but independent watchdog on anti-terrorist legislation, issued a report saying that the public's trust had been profoundly affected by the dodgy dossiers put out before the Iraq war, and that the government needed to do much more to reveal the true nature of the continuing terrorist threat rather than relying on generalisations. A second publication yesterday, The Use and Abuse of Terror by Peter Oborne of The Spectator, published by the Policy Studies Centre, provides chapter and verse on the tactics too often used for political advantage by Mr Blair.
by RAY FLEMING