Parliament Sketch: After the replay, lords arrange Pinochet's away match
Inside the law lords were due to give their judgment for the second time, and many people were hoping for a repeat of the penalty shoot-out cliffhanger the previous fixture had delivered.
In the Lords, the visitors' galleries creaked under the weight of lucky ticket-holders, several of them clutching Human Rights Watch's useful team list, a fill-in-as-you-go scorecard, adorned with pictures of their lordships and boxes in which to note which way each judgment went.
For the first two announcements it seemed as if it might actually be useful for keeping tally, with Lord Goff levelling the score after an initial vote for extradition from Lord Browne-Wilkinson. After that, though, it was all downhill for the general. The point of no return passed without an audible mark and the first sound that moved the chamber was the laughter that greeted Lord Browne-Wilkinson's remark that the judgments were "incapable of being understood without some explanation". After glancing through the written opinions, with their talk of "immunity rationae materiae", "the refoulement of persons" and the principle of "aut dedere aut punire", Lord Browne-Wilkinson's crisp paraphrase was gratefully taken up.
We could have done with him half an hour later, to offer a simultaneous translation of the Deputy Prime Minister's answers as he stood in for his boss at Prime Minister's questions. Impromptu sentence construction is not one of Mr Prescott's strong points and his frail syntactical powers appear to be further sapped when he finds himself addressed as Prime Minister. The result is not boring, it has to be said, with some replies offering the vision of a strange parallel universe, similar to our own but subtly different in its details. After a hostile Labour question about military action against Serbia, for example, Mr Prescott was at pains to underline allied determination. "Unato is united," he said resolutely, accidentally inventing what sounded to be a useful hybrid of international talking shop and mutual defence pact
A little later, after Peter Lilley had asked for an assurance that the murderer of Stephen Restorick would not be released early unless IRA weapons had been decommissioned, Mr Prescott stumbled again. "The freeing and exchange of prisoners" would continue, he said. Tories barked in synthetic confusion. Was there some PoW camp deep in bandit-country that they had not been told about? Mr Prescott looked testy. "I withdraw that remark. I apologise. I made a slip," he said, in a voice like fingernails raking down a blackboard.
The truth is, though, that Mr Prescott offers more slips than a lingerie department - sometimes eliding whole words ("everybody in the House feels exactly about that," he said, after a denunciation of child abuse), sometimes mispronouncing one so that the sentence twists surreally in his mouth: "The average level of the Tax Asian has gone down," he said, in a reply about council tax levels.
He was rescued only by the dogged solidarity of his Labour colleagues. The inevitable gibe about diving had come from Peter Lilley but Mr Prescott was prepared for it. "When I dived 80 feet," he said, "I didn't dive low enough to discover the low Tory poll rating!" This quip had surfaced so fast that it got the bends and hit the deck writhing. But the entire Parliamentary Labour Party turned out to give it mouth-to-mouth, roaring as if it was the very epitome of repartee. Mr Prescott was so cheered up he got through a whole sentence without a fluff.
- 1 Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
- 2 Margaret Thatcher 'expressed fears of Asian rising' at Anglo-Irish summit in 1984
- 3 Top 10 travel destinations for 2015: From Haiti and Alaska to Namibia and Iceland
- 4 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 5 The Unluckiest People of the Year 2014 (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
Margaret Thatcher 'expressed fears of Asian rising' at Anglo-Irish summit in 1984
UK weather: Travel chaos continues as King's Cross train delays add to snow on roads
The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
The Unluckiest People of the Year 2014 (and one very unlucky giraffe)
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...
£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...
£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...