The Sketch: A resolute stalemate of passion and procedures

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The Independent Online

So, "passionate" isn't just a technical term to do with public-sector delivery reform. Parliament Square was heaving with country people, the roads in all directions were traffic-free as in a disaster movie.

So, "passionate" isn't just a technical term to do with public-sector delivery reform. Parliament Square was heaving with country people, the roads in all directions were traffic-free as in a disaster movie.

Police, police vans and mounted riot officers were drawn up in battle order as 10,000 protesters were penned up under the statue of Churchill. There was violence; no one was torn to pieces by dogs but it was quite shocking for us in the metropolitan bourgeoisie. Such is the nature of passion.

Inside the Commons my colleague and I pursued a procedural conversation. "What have they just voted on? Was that amendment A?" I, as you know, am something of a procedural expert and was able to reply: "No, that was amendment a. There is no amendment A."

The division was over and the Speaker cried: "Lock the doors!" And my interlocutor said: "Why are they locking the doors? Are they locking the doors? What doors are they locking? I don't think they are locking the doors. Where are the doors that are being locked?"

I said: "I can't answer that", hoping she would understand it was classified information and not that I didn't know the answer.

You can take it from this that there were two very different levels of activity going on yesterday afternoon. Two hours of procedural debate ate up half the second reading of the Hunting Bill. There was no time limit on backbench contributions so the House explored at leisure the implications of the Parliament Act and the government guillotine. As it turned out this was a pretty good result.

The arguments for the ban have never been more thoroughly exposed. There is no urgency. The legislation could easily be carried over. There are whole areas which haven't been drafted properly and will cause hilarious confusion when the time comes. There is no Commons majority for a ban: 366 voted for a ban but 406 voted for licensing. The House of Lords is acting with entire propriety as we have a bicameral Parliament. And the persecution of this minority sits most unhappily with Labour who surely knows what persecution really means.

Notes: Claire Ward has taken to sitting on Hazel Blears' old seat and is understudying that unfortunate mini-minister with her original brand of squeak and yelp; Tony Banks followed his campaign into the last ditch, well done him. And Barry Sheerman made the best speech, being both brave and modest. It certainly amazed those of us who'd heard him speak before.

And finally Labour's manifesto didn't promise to "resolve" the question of hunting with dogs, it promised that Parliament would "bring it to a conclusion". As quibbler Alun Michael pointed out. Barry Sheerman observed, the matter could already be considered concluded. As a stalemate.

This had nothing to do with animal welfare and everything to do with a pre-war class struggle, the Prime Minister and, God help us, Iraq.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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