Simon Carr: Just another dark day in a very gloomy year for Hoon and Hewitt

Sketch: We are just in the foothills of shame, really. Onwards and upwards!
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The Independent Online

Scandalised, they were, shocked and scandalised by this shaming sham. Labour certainly looked sick sitting there with their sinners pilloried all through the media.

What a terrible year Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt have had. Gordon bilked them on the euro-jobs they wanted, then their coup flopped – and now they've been caught on tape offering personal services that would make Christine Keeler wince.

I'm "a cab for hire", one ex-minister said to a fake lobby firm, and his metered rate was £5,000 a day. By Tuesday evening, he would earn twice what a pensioner gets in a year, as David Heath put it to the House. Ex-minister Byers said he could change legislation, he had done so, and he was even better at it than those Labour peers caught on tape making the same claims in a journalistic sting (they all got off).

Had he actually managed to make changes to the food-labelling bill? Or to that transport law? It was Stephen Byers making the claims, you see. He was a minister who, during his tenure, was referred to in headlines as Liar Byers without the use of quote marks.

Paul Flynn took a generous view: Byers "wasn't the first man to indulge in boastful fantasies when talking to an attractive young woman". And maybe you could also say that the scale of his misdeeds was dwarfed by Tony Blair's earnings, as Sir Peter Tapsell said. And that those earnings were dwarfed by trade union donations to Labour – and they in turn were dwarfed by Labour payments of £17m to trade unions. We're just in the foothills of shame, really. Onwards and upwards! Harriet assured us that no policy had been influenced by the wretches in the dock. In that case, Elfyn Llwyd said, shouldn't they be charged with "obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception"?

Harriet got in a couple of digs – cash for questions, and that 70 per cent of the directorships in the Commons were held by Tories. She was promising ever-higher standards of transparency. But didn't she herself get nailed for undeclared payments in her £105,000 campaign for Labour deputy? And didn't Unite's Charlie Whelan have a desk in Downing Street, and why aren't his meetings with the PM reported, as Harriet has been promising such meetings would be?

David Heath said: "We are tougher on the lowliest parish councillor than we are on ourselves."

So, what? They'll put some code or other "on a statutory basis". That'll do the trick. They'll still all get off, but they'll have to hire more expensive lawyers to do so.

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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