Simon Carr: The Sketch

Pointless points of order: a dull day on the home front
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The Independent Online

While our brave boys were going through hell across the Channel we were stuck in the Home Guard. What wouldn't I have given to be over there with them. Jack Straw's heroic defence of the rebate. It's like Thermopylae. He's chucking it at the Euro-nuisances with both hands. Deluded, he called their prime ministers. Deluded! The rudeness of it, the scorn, the contempt! I hope he's not pitching for my job. The sound of distant gunfire was particularly unsettling as we were stuck in the Commons' dullest day of the month. After listening to the Government's weakest front bench, we had the Tory leadership contender David Cameron and his promising point of order.

While our brave boys were going through hell across the Channel we were stuck in the Home Guard. What wouldn't I have given to be over there with them. Jack Straw's heroic defence of the rebate. It's like Thermopylae. He's chucking it at the Euro-nuisances with both hands. Deluded, he called their prime ministers. Deluded! The rudeness of it, the scorn, the contempt! I hope he's not pitching for my job. The sound of distant gunfire was particularly unsettling as we were stuck in the Commons' dullest day of the month. After listening to the Government's weakest front bench, we had the Tory leadership contender David Cameron and his promising point of order.

Ruth Kelly had made three new announcements of government policy in a week, he said, all through the media with never a word to the elected House of Commons. Three! It's true, count them. There was the audit of special schools closure (something that may end the second most disastrous educational idea for a generation). There was the announcement of all-day care for school children (something that may amount to the nationalisation of child-rearing). And there was the reversion to phonics - a wholesale counter-revolution in the way children are taught to read, something that may reverse the second most disastrous educational idea of a generation. But not a word said to the House! Rudeness, scorn and more contempt! I must look at Ruth Kelly more closely and see how she does it.

So, David Cameron's point of order was, as I say, promising. Delivered with clarity and subdued passion; inflected with intelligent sincerity and the right, rare blend of sorrow and anger. It would have made a deep impression if it hadn't been complete bollocks. The Speaker made this clear not just deftly but gently. As I don't know how that works, I can only admire it. Michael Martin said it was indeed true he wanted ministers to make these announcements to the House rather than to the media but he couldn't do it by himself. "I need help. I had no application for an Urgent Question this morning, for instance. Then I would at least have had a mechanism before me," he said. Yes, applying for an Urgent Question is an elementary precaution to take, if you want your clever blend of sorrow and anger to look anything other than personal therapy. Would Tony Blair in 1990 have made a mistake like that?

Judging by the rate of progress in the Tory party we've got another 10 years of clarity, subdued passion, intelligent sincerity, and pratfalls.

Eric Forth accused the Leader of the House of "wriggling". Geoff Hoon had invented a doctrine, he said, that only new matters were fit for ministerial statements. This was obviously untrue and Mr Hoon had wriggled. I thought it was squirming more than wriggling, but it's a very fine point.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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