Can't hang about, there's a lot to get through. Questions of honesty, integrity, propriety, what's the word? Honour. Westminster politicians are called honourable members. Only by each other, it's true, but it's the form, the norm, it's how they want us to see them. Yes, yes, I know, I know.
Of all MPs, the Prime Minister most likes to be known as a man of honour. It nettles him when his integrity is questioned. Iain Duncan Smith got no momentum into his questioning yesterday but he did needle the leader, and that was worth watching. Tony Blair had sent a letter of commendation for a foreign company bidding for a state-owned steel mill in Romania. The foreign company had a small office in England but was run by a donor to the Labour Party (£130,000 over two elections).
Mr Duncan Smith pointed out that the company was registered in the Dutch Antilles, had less than one-tenth of one per cent of its employees in Britain and competed against British steel manufacturing. Quite an impressive charge when you boil it down.
The Prime Minister's response again drew heavily on nonsense. It was nonsense, he said. Complete nonsense. A complete load of nonsense from end to end. Rubbish. Garbage. The biggest load of garbage since the last load of garbage, which was Enron. This was Garbagegate.
He said that it was a British-based company (raucous laughter). It was a British company (incredulous laughter). And: "All we were doing was welcoming the fact that the reform process was going ahead in Romania" (some things are impossible to laugh at). The Tory Chris Grayling challenged another Prime Ministerial pronouncement: Mr Blair had said that Railtrack's administrators were daily discovering more and more financial disasters. It is important for Byers-supporters to believe this is so.
Mr Grayling pointed out that expert evidence recently given to the select committee showed precisely the opposite. The evidence was presented by an administrator himself. Mr Blair said: "I think he'll see that I was right and he's wrong." No, you can't laugh at that either.
Mr Grayling raised it as a point of order at the end of Question Time. We should be able to rely on the accuracy of statements made by the Prime Minister, he suggested. The Speaker said he had no right to raise the matter as a point of order. He goes from bad to worse. It is essential he doesn't resign. He is central to the Sketch's proposition that we are misruled at every level.
Keith Vaz made an historic contribution to parliamentary annals. He is not allowed in the House for a month. Having been found guilty, he says he is innocent. Having made false accusations, he says he's been falsely accused. Having sinned, he complains of being sinned against. Tremblingly, he said he was proud to be Asian. And that: "My only concern was the welfare of my mother." Sir George Young crushed his defence with such implacable dignity that we suddenly saw how the British upper class held such sway for so long.
Mr Vaz's display was so revolting, so glutinous, so devoid of taste, judgement or honour that we can only feel gratitude to him for allowing us to witness it.Reuse content