Simon Carr's Sketch: The best defence against claims of spin

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The Independent Online

Spin, concealment, evasion, incompetence – it was being bowled at her all day yesterday but in the end, Jacqui Smith came up with the sweetest leg glide. The reason why she hadn't announced that illegal immigrants were guarding the Prime Minister's car was because... she wanted all the evidence in place before doing so.

That was the reason why the leaked email said she didn't think "the lines we have are good enough for the press office and ministers to use..." Yes, it was because the facts had only just been assembled.

The House was stunned by this defence; you could see how they examined it in their collective mind, and equally you could feel their shock at the fact that it was perfect. By perfect, I mean good enough to get her out of the chamber with her head high.

Nonetheless, her comfortable assurances that there was no blunder, no fiasco, no failure even, will look odd on television. Jacqui's fuller explanation was odder still. The problem is all because of a tightening up of procedures. It is an improvement, in fact. Checks are going beyond what's expected. Things are so bad because they are much, much better. You can't fault the logic.

Andrew Robathan wondered mildly how a security process to identify "fit and proper" applicants could miss the fact that these people didn't have the right to work in Britain.

Presumably, too, these illegals might have criminal convictions? For terrorism, even? But the defence to that was: it's the employers' fault, not ours. She used the occasion to argue for ID cards. It makes no sense to me at all. Non-EU workers get into this country on passports. Why can't the passport be stamped with a work permit, as in more primitive countries? This won't require a multibillion pound database, and the odds are it would work immediately.

I haven't heard an answer to this point, and there will be a prize for any MP who can make the Home Secretary blush by showing there isn't one.

A point from the day before. When accused of cutting some education funding from 3.7 per cent growth to 2.1 per cent, Ed Ball reacted with great indignation ("He should be congratulating ME!" he said, eyeballs swelling dangerously on ME). He said it wasn't a cut but a reduction in the rate of growth. But Ed it was who repeated with dull ferocity at the last election that the Tory proposal to slow the growth in public spending was "cuts". Orwell would have loved it.

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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