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Simon Carr

Simon Carr: Listen carefully for the hardest word

The Sketch: It was the thinnest of apologies possible. Minestrone soup without the noodles. Or the minestrone.

Dominic Grieve missed it entirely and was greeted with jeers as a result. Apologise! he demanded (quite nastily, I'm pleased to say). But the Home Secretary had already done so, in her previous answer. So skilful was her "sorry" that everybody missed it.

When you look at the original words you can see why nothing registered. She had said in her undifferentiated Home Office verbalisation: "I am sorry that I think we were too quick off the mark with the publication of ..." You see? I am sorry that I think? And not that the claim was bogus, but that it was premature.

It was the thinnest of apologies possible. Minestrone soup without the noodles. Or the minestrone.

Officials had criticised the Government for launching some Knives Aren't Cool initiative with a bogus headline. Someone called Michael Scholar runs the UK Statistics Authority and he had called the claim of "17 per cent reduction" in knife crime "premature, irregular and selective". The old stooge who runs the Civil Service is calling for meetings to "learn the lessons" from the incident. Here's one lesson they don't need to leave their desks to absorb: stop telling such fat fricking lies you over-educated degenerates!!

Excuse me. I didn't mean that. They don't tell lies. They're too sophisticated. Grieve is surely wrong to accuse the Home Secretary of lying when she says she knew nothing about the Green arrest until it was fait accompli. However, he's equally right that she can't be trusted to tell the truth. But are we naive or perverse to expect them to do so?

Asked how he could reconcile some embarrassing statistics, the Home Office's Vernon Coaker explained that they had to change what they measured and the way they measured it. Exactly. That's how it's done. So where do you get at the truth in these reports, research documents and compilations of results? David Taylor MP went back to the protests outside the Kingsnorth power station. The minister Vernon "evenin' all" Coaker had defended the police behaviour by saying there had been 70 injuries sustained by the police from these middle-aged savages. Taylor had looked at the actual report sheets. Among the injuries were sunburn, and being stung by a wasp ("a probable wasp").

David Howarth contrasted this with injuries sustained by the protesters who took the brunt of police batons. Vernon was going to wait for the report "to learn the lessons". First among which would be to take probable anti-wasp ointment on violent demonstrations. The apology will come, no doubt, but only for those with ears to hear it.