The Sketch: Dr John and the politics of posturing

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The Independent Online

It's impossible not to "play politics" if you're a politician. Aren't John Reid and Gordon Brown "playing politics" over terror? Why wouldn't they be? David Davis kicked off yesterday's debate by remarking on the Chancellor's ambition to be Britain's "terror overlord"; Dr Reid ostentatiously concealed his private smile. Davis said that each wanted to look tough in comparison with his rival. He elaborated this with the Prime Minister's efforts to get the Tories "on the wrong side of the argument" by tearing up the consensus on the terror legislation with demands for 90 days detention. It wasn't clear what the score was by the end of the game (the PM never loses).

I wouldn't say Dr John's leadership chances look very good, frankly. There seem to be only two in his claque. Stephen Pound may be seeking to upgrade his position as Hazel Blears' quasi-autonomous, non-governmental officer. And then there's Kali Mountford (too big to fit into a sketch).

Dr John used the word "leadership" 850,000 times (according to the Home Office statistician, so we should regard the figure with caution); and he spent some time mocking the Conservatives' modernisation programme. He explained to them what a mobile phone was (causing Kali to squeal with laughter) and then said that because people steal these "mobile phones" we had to have a new law to make it illegal (which made me squeal with laughter). He also wants the Government "to stand between people and their anxieties". He might mean it. That's what we're up against.

The only time he raised his voice was on "identity management". He raved that ID cards were essential to control our borders. This is Scotch broth. We control our borders through passports. Foreigners won't even have to apply for ID cards for three months.

Nick Clegg reminds me of the young David Cameron. Weren't those the days, when David Cameron was the future? And my word he riled Big Dog by reiterating the "internal political posturing" critique of Labour's high command. Dr John declared himself insulted by the suggestion. Clegg walloped back: "Every single Sunday paper was full of sources close to the Home Secretary or Chancellor, burnishing their credentials on who was the greatest terrorist overlord." The great thing about playing politics is that there aren't any rules, only scorelines. So that's one for Clegg.

PS. Why did Dr Reid chat to Douglas Alexander through 80 per cent of John Denham's speech? Intellectual inferiority? Playing politics can make quite clever people quite stupid, he should be careful.

sketch@simoncarr.co.uk

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