Shock! Horror! Fuzzy logic found in Parliament

review

"They will take the view that this is about as exciting as writing up a trainspotter's conference," advised a candid PR man in Dispatches' report (C4) on parliamentary lobbying; "they" being journalists and "this" being an arcane amendment to the Gas Bill. Then again, journalists have a way of finding interesting matter in the least promising materials, as yesterday's papers proved with exhaustive write-ups of the programme's best scoop, the fact that Sir Jerry Wiggin had taken Sebastian Coe's name in vain when tabling an amendment.

Was it actually worth watching the programme, once you'd read the reports, listened to the bulletins and rocked in the backwash of outrage and spin- doctoring that followed? Well, yes, if only because print can never quite capture the delicious wriggle of a man on the hook. For the first half, the programme had gone fishing, trying to work us up about the fact that big business tries to win MPs round to its own point of view. You would have had to lead quite a sheltered life to be shocked by any of these early revelations (MPs taken to rugby matches!), though some opposition members gamely tried.

But then Dispatches hooked a big one - a piece of parliamentary sleight- of-hand that couldn't help but look decidedly shifty. Sir Jerry didn't help himself much with his explanation. You've probably read the salient remarks already, but most journalists left out the comic detail. Why hadn't he put his own name on an amendment that favoured his employers, the British Holiday and Home Parks Association? "I prefer not to - because I think it gets misinterpreted by people like you... har, har." Then he went on to that turk's head of evasion, a sentence so morally knotted that I feared for my fingernails. "I think it's better not to put down amendments in which one has an interest... [with you so far, Sir Jerry] because one can't be on the committee to declare that interest [hang on a mo, you've lost me there. Bear with me, Sir Jerry. I'm being a bit obtuse, I know, but I can't see how hiding your interest solves the problem of not being able to reveal it]". It helps if you start from the premise that the sentence contains no statements of principle at all. "It's better not to" doesn't mean "one shouldn't", it means "it's tactically preferable".

It was worth watching, too, to see Sebastian Coe on the spot. His remark ("He put my name down before I'd even realised that it had gone down, and it would be quite wrong to do that") has been widely quoted as if the second half was a comment on the first. In context it was quite different; to my ears he was commenting on the propriety of dropping a fellow MP in the dirt. If Sir Jerry had been caught fair and square, Coe had been foul-hooked - confronted without warning with an off-the-record revelation. St Sebastian looked martyred in the face of this breach of journalistic etiquette.

It wasn't the only mischievous moment in the programme, which also doorstepped reluctant interviewees and filmed empty chairs when their occupants proved elusive. The man from British Gas, pursued throughout the programme to arrange an interview about their lobbying tactics, was finally cornered emerging from his office. How did the man responsible for liaising with the press handle this tricky moment? He tried to hide behind the interviewer.

Even more mischief in Wax Cracks Cannes (BBC1), in which Ruby poured sand into the gas-tank of the world's biggest film festival. The funniest moment was a press conference for Mickey Rourke. It took some two hours for the minders to manoeuvre this grotesquely bloated ego into a marquee crowded with journalists. At which point it ran straight into the spiky little broad on the front row and you heard the hiss of escaping gas.

Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jude Law in Black Sea

film

In Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before

Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops

film

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game