Bobbitt strategy and cunning traps

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Indy Politics
Tony Banks was dazzled, and he did not like it. On a point of order, he raised the "increased luminosity" in the chamber. The extra light had, he quipped, reminded him how "ugly they are on the other side".

The ungallant (but luminously correct) Mr Banks may well have been referring to his bete noire for the day, the Environment minister, Sir Paul Beresford - a Kiwi dentist knighted by Baroness Thatcher for services to Wandsworth Council. "Go back to your billabong!" Mr Banks shouted at one point during a Beresfordian extraction of a political point from an unaesthetised Labour or Liberal Democrat council.

It may well have been Kent County Council. Traditionally Tory, it has fallen to the barbarian hordes, and huge cuts are now having to be made in spending on education. The council blames the Government, and the endangered Kent Tory MPs are desperately blaming the council. Jacques "Buzz-saw" Arnold invited the Mouth Mangler to lay into the wasters of the garden of England. Sir Paul did. Kent council was trying on an old trick: "cutting off something vital and then showing the bleeding stumps!"

While we were pondering this colourful Antipodean phrase (What exactly had been severed? was this another vile American import: the Bobbitt strategy?) Labour's tall and nervous spokesthing, Graham Allen, had launched into a little tirade about how - come the revolution - Labour's candidates in the Kent seats would be more patriotically pro-Kent than the snivelling quislings presently in place (a fat lot of good it will do them too, since Gordon won't give 'em a penny extra, or lift the spending cap). The Gob Grubber was ready. "A double blow here!" he exclaimed in the tones that have shrunk the testicles of thousands of male root-canal patients. On the one hand we have the bleeding stumps - and on the other the counting of chickens!"

It had all become too surreal: stumps and bleeding chickens, bridge-work, closing schools and Jacques Arnold. I closed my eyes and when I opened them again it was Prime Minister's question-time. The Labour leader Tony Blair had reverted to one of his "I'm a responsible guy" short single questions, and sat down (to spend the next 10 minutes stroking his chin, examining his tie as though an alien had affixed it to his chest when he was not looking, and gazing at the roof to see where this alien might have escaped to). It was left to the formidable Denis MacShane to do the damage. The Rotherham dandy drew himself up, buttoned his jacket, adjusted his cuffs, cleared his throat - and launched. What about ol' Clarkey and his imposition of an airport tax, which would cost a family of four an average of 80 quid a throw, eh?

But, said John Major, had not the honourable gent's own shadow Chancellor just endorsed all the spending plans of said Clarke? "The Chancellor," he said, "is infallible!" Up till now chancellors have been "unassailable". Popes, alone, have been infallible. Mixing them up may be unwise.

Another Labour dandy, former firebrand and current DKNY clotheshorse, Peter Hain, was on hand with a terrible trap dug for Mr Major.

The Prime Minister had told Japanese industry that he could not wait for the Euro, but told Teddy Taylor MP that it was an abomination of hell. "Which," asked Mr Hain, "of these two views espoused by him were correct. Or is he infallible?" "No," replied the Prime Minister. "They're both incorrect." Philosophers will be discussing that one for years to come.

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