The Sketch: An awful lot of beef over pork barrels, Bills and bananas

A FEW DAYS ago, the House of Commons was assured that the armed forces were doing their bit to chew Britain out of the beef crisis. At barracks throughout the land, members were told, British beef was on the menu and steady progress was being made ethnically to cleanse the outsourcing of pork products.

Yesterday, the Opposition asked the Agriculture Minister, Nick Brown, to enlist the sick and the old in this masticatory campaign to save the nation's bacon. Would hospitals also be required to adjust their tenders to help the British pig industry out of its current dismal wallow? As a consumer of pig meat himself, Mr Brown replied, he would advise all consumers to look for a Union Flag before handing over their cash.

They were talking about diet in the House of Lords too, relatively innocuously at first, with a brief exchange of views about the Caribbean banana industry, currently the subject of a charitable intervention by the European Union and a very uncharitable retaliation from the United States, which has its own banana republics to defend. This was very shortsighted, suggested Baroness Williams, since the only agricultural alternative to this innocuous fruit were cash crops that the United States government likes a great deal less: "Yes, we have no bananas" they would soon be singing to a calypso lilt, "there's only cocaine today."

The more serious dietary question, though, related to the Government's proposals to ram Millbank-approved candidates down the throats of local constituencies, by means of the feeding funnel known as the closed list system. The Lords were debating, for the fourth time, an amendment to the European Elections Bill which would replace this unpopular device with an open list alternative. There was a certain rich irony in the spectacle of an entirely unelected chamber, many of whose members owe their presence to accident of birth alone, taking the moral high ground in a question of electoral procedure. Indeed this paradox forms a large plank of the Government's argument in defence of its proposals. The only plank, in truth, since all the others are too rotten to display in public.

It is a mark of their embarrassment over this issue that Lord MacKay was able to make his opening speech supporting the motion, citing only Labour MPs and MEPs and an article from the Mirror. The closed list was a threat to the genuine independence of MPs, he suggested, who would find themselves beholden not to local constituents but to senior party managers, who could then use their powers to bully the recalcitrant into silence.

As if to illustrate his argument Baroness Jay then tried to rule against Lord Shore, when he found himself rising from his seat at the same time as another Labour peer. But on this occasion, at least, the independent spirit prevailed, assisted by an indignant hubbub from Tory peers. This was a simple matter, Lord Shore explained, of "the electorate versus the selectorate". He would keep faith with the former.

Even those who supported the Government couldn't muster a moral argument between them - the first two speeches to urge peers to reject the amendment were at pains to point out that they thought the closed list system was quite wrong, and that only their belief in the supremacy of the elected chamber had overcome their misgivings. "How many times can we ask them to think again?" said Lord Barnett, morosely. His question was answered quite quickly, at least one more time, though that won't alter the end result.

Whips will crack in the Commons and as Earl Russell had warned earlier, the party managers will get their pork barrels. At least he can take comfort in the fact that it will be British pork that fills them.

Sport
The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

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

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week