Simon Carr: The Sketch

Brown boils over at ginger snap
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The Independent Online

How long will Iain Duncan Smith last as leader of the Conservative Party? When Charles Kennedy, the ginger snap, outboxes him, it cannot be long.

That sounds churlish. Not that the Sketch apologises for churlishness. To make the eye-watering effort to be generous, let us admit that it was a signal triumph for the Liberal Democrat leader.

"When the Prime Minister committed himself to raising health expenditure to the European average by 2005, is that still the policy of his Government?" he asked. Tony Blair replied: "Of course it is. Which is precisely the point of what the Chancellor was announcing yesterday."

The Chancellor's face told a very different story. Gordon Brown's eyeballs bulged like boiled eggs. His lips bunched and everted obscenely. Veins in his head stood out like earthworms. A great pouch ballooned underneath his chin as he forced down the flow of obscenities, emotional, spiritual and fiscal. The pressure inside his skull would have blown a normal head in to a billion cortical fragments all over the floor of the House of Commons. It was a marvellous sight.

With his answer, the Prime Minister had added £10bn more than the Chancellor has allowed for in his budgeting. Big money. Especially when money is running out.

But the Conservatives are pitiful just now. It's not just that Mr Duncan Smith lacks the voice for the job (it cracks and sobs and chokes and gargles). He uses it to ask questions that merely cue Tony Blair's litany of achievements. The Prime Minister invariably finishes off with the flourish that the Government is putting money into health, and the Tories want to take money out. This has been going on for a year now. The Tories still haven't found an answer for it. The NHS boils away like the director's cut of Blade Runner and Mr Duncan Smith can't make it work for them.

Tony Banks brought up the plight of the zoo animals of Kabul. A bear has had his nose cut off. We're pretty sure it didn't just fall off, no matter how prevalent cocaine abuse is in that part of the world. Mr Banks wants to send in animal welfare. It's a good plan, if vicious. Defra would do far more damage than the Army to the animal husbandry of Afghanistan (you can't beat experience). Mr Blair promised Mr Banks that he would look carefully at what he had said.

Considering the dark, secret love the British have for their pets, this could be a great rebranding exercise.

The SAS (Special Animal Service), the SBS (Special Bear Service) 2-Para (Parrots Against Racial Abuse) will all have their part to play in this new phase of the war in Afghanistan. The Americans can send in hundreds of thousands of Viet Vets as back up. And if the initiative works as well for the anti-terror coalition as Phoenix the Calf worked for Downing Street, al-Qa'ida will be smashed by Christmas.