Thomas Sutcliffe

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Parliament The Sketch: Calculus, confusion and the question of elastic children

QUESTION: IF, as the Chancellor said in his budget statement recently, our children are 20 per cent of the population but 100 per cent of our future and if 10 per cent of our future is to benefit from new schemes to stretch intellectually able pupils, then what percentage of our population will have cause to be grateful for Mr Blunkett's announcement yesterday on Excellence in Education?

The Lawrence Report: The Sketch - Contrition in the playground

I DON'T know whether Doreen and Neville Lawrence have visited the House of Commons before but, even if not, they will scarcely need telling that their experience yesterday was not typical. Most members of the public do not sit on the floor of the chamber for one thing, but in the gallery. Most visitors will not find that virtually every speech begins with an encomium to their personal qualities of dignity and determination. Most visitors, above all, do not find that they are central figures in what amounts to a national ritual of confession and contrition. As speaker after speaker enjoined the House to read, study and inwardly digest the conclusions of the Lawrence report, they sat at the back of the chamber more like judges than honoured guests, authority vested in them by bereavement. The guilty verdict they presided over was not the one they had originally sought, but had now expanded to encompass a whole police force, if not a whole society. It was, said the Prime Minister, "a very important moment in the life of our own country".

Parliament The Sketch: On a momentous day for our island race, Blair turns up

WAS IT Tony Blair's presence in the House yesterday that was worthy of note or the absence of his absence?

The Sketch: Mask of severity cracks at legislative game show

"OPEN-MINDED though I am, masochism has never had any attractions for me," confessed Glenda Jackson, responding to an impertinent inquiry about her private appetites from Dr Stephen Ladyman.

Parliament: The Sketch: Opposition leader expends ammunition on single issue

THE PHRASE "within the last few hours" always gives a little frisson to proceedings in the House, not only by its promise of urgency but because it holds out the tantalising possibility that we are going to be told something we don't already know. Mr Hague used it to good effect in his first question to the Prime Minister yesterday, ending a list of attacks in Northern Ireland with the murder of Eamon Collins and so rather grimly injecting fresh blood into his call for a halt to the early release of terrorist prisoners.

Iraq Bombings: The Sketch - PM shows the strain in face of resounding support

MOST PEOPLE, if required to read out a 25 minute speech in front of a large and potentially sceptical crowd, wouldn't put money on their ability to make it from start to finish without a single slip of the tongue. But Tony Blair could make such a bet with fair confidence that he wouldn't lose very often. It is one of the Prime Minister's less salient talents that he hardly ever makes a fluff when he reads a statement to the House, even when he departs from the fairway of his script into the rough of scribbled addenda.
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