Simon Carr: Pensions debate? I felt like retiring

Sketch: Everyone felt discernibly closer to the end of their lives after Work and Pensions questions
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The Independent Online

Just weeks to go, then we're into an election out of which anything might come. If we're considering a hung parliament we should remember that it may not be the Lib Dems with the balance of power, it may be Plaid Cymru and the Scot Nats – imagine the Picto-Celtic maths driving the deficit management then.

Anyway, a new Parliament, half of them first-time MPs, will assemble to discuss, debate and determine how to spend £600bn of taxpayers' money. They'll be doctors, social workers, teachers, local councillors, political agents, union officers, lawyers, two idiots and a werewolf – and the only thing they'll have in common is that they'll have no idea what half-a-trillion quid looks like. Never mind, they'll be new, they'll be fresh, they'll be bursting with a desire to make the world a better place. And maybe they'll bring life to the mortuarial hall.

Everyone's knackered. It was Work and Pensions questions, the most knackering day of the month. One Tory said: "The UK accounts for one in seven of Europe's hidden jobless population." The minister replied: "We are proud of the number of students we have, and are sorry the party opposite will not support our September Guarantee."

Another said: "But 923,000 18- to 24-year-olds are unemployed which is 50 per cent up since 1997, will she admit she was wrong?" The minister replied: "We were right. The party opposite turned its back on the young unemployed and is committed to abolishing the Future Jobs Fund."

Everyone felt discernibly closer to the end of their lives after these exchanges. Then we had Bob Ainsworth leading a debate on Defence in the World. Perhaps a fuse had blown; for once his magnetic personality failed to make the paperclips dance. People say he's a nice enough fellow but someone with more personality might command enough attention to make us understand what we are doing in Afghanistan. He says we are protecting our streets by killing Taliban insurgents. You need hypnotic powers to make that stick.

He also says we've spent £22bn there. Imagine how many schools and hospitals that would buy for 100 miles around Dewsbury. Then he denounced the Tories for having cut defence spending by 10 per cent, back in the 1990s. He said it like it was a bad thing.

Maybe we'll understand more after the election.

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