LOOKING back to the week that was January 22 to 28, twenty years ago...

ON the eve of the most traumatic week of his Premiership in January 2004, Tony Blair tried to persuade students in his own North-East constituency that university tuition fees were a good idea.

He talked to the 15- and 16-year-olds at Ferryhill Business and Enterprise College while Downing Street acknowledged that the Government still had "a hill to climb" to win a vote of no confidence over alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

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No 10 confirmed that Chief Whip Hilary Armstrong, the North-West Durham MP, had told Cabinet colleagues that Mr Blair was still 20 to 30 votes short of victory.

One North-East backbencher said he had been advised to clear his diary for next week because it was likely that Mr Blair would lose and call an immediate vote of confidence.

That is likely to be held after the Hutton Report into the death of weapons expert Dr David Kelly. Tension ahead of the publication was heightened when the former head of the Iraq Survey Group said that Saddam had no stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.

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Elsewhere, schools took part in a project at the University of Durham which combines science and the arts.

Members of Jack Drum Arts delivered workshops in schools based on a theory of the science of ageing developed by Professor Tom Kirkwood at Newcastle University, in January 2004.

Prof Kirkwood researched the ageing process and believed that humans should live forever given the way cells reproduce, but due to a malfunction the ageing process continues.

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A total of 70 pupils participated in the events, consisting of dance, sculpture, digitally manipulated imagery and drama.

The project was awarded a £40,000 grant from the Wellcome Trust, through the Arts Council.

Pupils from Wolsingham Comprehensive, Greenfield, in Newton Aycliffe, and Teesdale, in Barnard Castle, shared their experiences with one another through a series of presentations and group discussions at the university.