The Sketch: Always accuse opponents of your own most obvious fault

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The Independent Online

Just lie on your side and let me pour a little poison into your ear.

The Government puts in place a magnificent array of powers of detention, arrest and seizure unknown since the 18th century. But when they've actually got a thousand foreign kidnappers, murderers, rapists, child-sex offenders and drug dealers in custody, they don't send them back to where they've come from, to rape, kidnap, murder and deal drugs to their own people, they let them wander off into our community.

This takes a bit of explaining. Charles "Cuddles" Clarke (for new readers, he's the Home Secretary) exploits his intimate if somewhat fetid co-dependency with the media by confessing it all to them before telling Parliament (by means of a Written Statement).

Because he'd waited until after lunch to put the statement in front of the House there was no time to apply for an Urgent Question, so David Davis was reduced to making a point of order on the matter. There's not much you can do in a point of order except make the point. The Speaker said he would "ask the Home Secretary for an explanation".

Here it is: "I was trying to sneak the news out without having to put up with a lot of bench monkeys jumping around the Commons and hooting and pointing their backward parts at me."

As for the toxic influence of the media - let it be said that the Speaker has been booted about by Fleet Street's rudest and most brutal sketch writers (both of us). And yet (or, so) the affection the House has for him manifests itself on every sitting. Chris Bryant asked him to reaffirm his ruling that the term "mislead" was unparliamentary (the Speaker's stand-in had allowed the term last week). To his credit, the old coot affirmed it in the gentlest and least reproachful way. That's the most damaging way there is - he can teach us all a thing or two about disabling his opponents.

It was Foreign Office questions. Were we going to strike Iran with nuclear weapons? Rearrange some or all of the following words into your preferred order: Absolutely. Not. Yet.

Jack Straw added materially to the Middle East discourse represented by the Prime Minister's dictum: "Iran is not Iraq." The Foreign Secretary told the House: "There is a history to Iran, as there is to many other countries." Gibbon reached for a statement of this sort of completeness all his life. He never achieved it.

David Cameron addressed the press gallery lunch. He opened well (he does open well): "Fellow reptiles!" But his fundamental criticism of Tony Blair is this: "The real nature of the failure of his government is - he did not know clearly what he wanted to do."

Readers will remember the Sketch's first, implacable, law of politics: Always accuse your opponent of your own most obvious fault.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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