The Sketch: Dodgy at home, ineffectual abroad. It was not a good day for the Prime Minister

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The Prime Minister always gets tired at this time of year. You can't blame him. It's exhausting searching for weapons in this heat. And fiddling the statistics for a health service that employs a million people. And healing the scar on the world's conscience that is Africa - it takes it out of a fellow. Even his old friend Gordon Brown chuckling on the front bench couldn't stiffen his sinews. None the less, we never thought to see Mr Blair so distrait that he'd be dumped by Mr Thing.

It was jaw-dropping. The PM's jaw dropped. He's given us his gutted halibut before, this was his stunned mullet. Mr Thing had quoted the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, which said this week that Mr Blair should apologise for misrepresenting the "dodgy dossier" as a work of military intelligence. "I will not accept Parliament was misled!" the Prime Minister declared. Pedants will suggest it's not really for him to say if Parliament was misled. He seemed to be saying that if Parliament had listened carefully to him, they wouldn't have misunderstood - he couldn't be blamed for it.

He went on a little daringly. He'd been stung. The leader of the loyal Opposition had been part of the war preparations all along, he said nastily. The intelligence, Mr Blair said, had been shared with him and he'd never objected.

It was then that the great, cone-shaped thing that leads the Tory party soared to the dispatch box, voice crunching the gears between a growl and a roar, eyes blazing like lightbulbs: the Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith was actually angry. You don't often see that. No wonder we were laughing. The PM's jaw had dropped and he sat there with a hole in the middle of his face into which he clearly wanted to disappear.

He stood up to answer, and twisted as he did so. When that didn't work, he writhed. That didn't work either. "My understanding he was briefed by the Joint Intelligence Committee on 18 September and 12 February." The later date, students of this episode will know, was after the "dodgy dossier" was released, well after.

Mr Duncan Smith had been briefed orally, you see. But the PM was pinned and wriggling on the wall. How should he begin to spit out all the butt ends of his days and ways?

In the larger scheme of things it's a technicality. Charles Kennedy, Geraint Davies and David Winnick lifted the questioning into the larger issue of Britons at Guantanamo Bay.

Our representations on their behalf had been ignored, they said. The Americans will do what they will. Secret trials, court-appointed defence counsel, the threat of the death penalty. Nothing Mr Blair had been able to say or do had changed the Americans' minds. Dodgy at home, ineffectual abroad. It wasn't a good day for the Prime Minister.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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