Russell in a right tizz

COLCHESTER MP Bob Russell attacked me in the EADT on Friday for daring to comment on his leader's performance in the Commons in my Parliamentary sketch of Prime Minister's Questions of October 22.

COLCHESTER MP Bob Russell attacked me in the EADT on Friday for daring to comment on his leader's performance in the Commons in my Parliamentary sketch of Prime Minister's Questions of October 22.

Mr Russell says I printed "at length the false claims" and "dodgy views" of the Prime Minister against Liberal Democrat tax and spend policies. I'm afraid that reporting politicians is part of the democratic process and as a former journalist himself, he must know that he could have made no greater insult than to say I was hoodwinked into believing what Tony Blair said.

He takes great exception to my view that Mr Kennedy was "comprehensively squashed" by Mr Blair. Ask the 600 non Liberal Democrat MPs, the hundreds of members of the public, guests in the diplomatic seats and the peers' gallery as well as scores of impartial journalists, and they will all say the same – that Charles Kennedy was torn to shreds by the Prime Minister.

I make no apology for my original statement that Charles Kennedy was "comprehensively squashed" by the Prime Minister. He was. And unfortunately for Mr Russell's argument, he was again the following week, which I pointed out last Friday. It's does Bob Russell no credit to deny the undeniable by shifting the blame for his leader's plight in the Commons onto myself.


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A political party's spending priorities, paid for by the introduction of a top rate of tax at 50p, is bound to be scrutinised by its opponents keen to expose the plans to the crucial voters of Middle England who will bear the cost. That's politics.

It's not me that Bob Russell should be taking to task. If the Prime Minister was wrong, the easiest way would be for the Lib Dems to use one of their allotted days in Parliament for a debate on the financing of public services. They could then explain just where the billions of pounds required for their spending is to come from.

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Mr Russell believes the EADT should be balanced. It most certainly is – let's take the party conferences. I am the only written media journalist from the region who attends. We give equal coverage to all three – even though the Lib Dems have just one MP from our region – and certainly the party's plans for a local income tax to replace council tax were given very fair and prominent treatment. What a shame Mr Russell chooses to ignore this.

The Lib Dems have prospered since 1989, when the Tories started tearing themselves apart. Paddy Ashdown dwarfed William Hague and at times, Charles Kennedy overshadowed Iain Duncan Smith. Michael Howard will be a different proposition and Blair-Howard contests will once again marginalise the Lib Dems in the Commons – is that the real reason for Mr Russell's ire?

Perhaps the saddest thing of all is Mr Russell's inability to read the title of the offending column – A Parliamentary Sketch. It's an occasional but light-hearted plague on all politicians' houses, which I have no intention of being cowed into changing.

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