The Sketch: Elaine Tappin - a magnificent example of contained and understated courage

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The Independent Online

Sir Menzies entered, came into, ingressed or otherwise effected the interiorising process vis-a-vis the committee room. He'd come to talk about his long-promised report on the extradition treaty, most particularly to answer the question, "Where the devil is it?"

It is said to be a scathing critique of the present arrangements whereby a 65-year-old businessman can be lifted out of the Orpington golf club and legally rendered to the US authorities, denied bail, have his reading material confiscated and kept in solitary – all without evidence being presented to him in England.

Two years ago, Sir Ming said his report was to be ready "as soon as possible". It is still unwritten. When exactly is "as soon as possible?" The phrase was "capable of many meanings," Sir Ming smiled. As it was now "a matter of urgency" it would be ready before the next election.

Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General, also criticised Tony Blair's treaty in sorrowful terms when in Opposition. Mr Grieve is phrasing it differently now. "I certainly don't think they are in the sort of condition I would ideally like to find them," he said.

It's the magic of office, isn't it? To do anything you'd have to demolish the architecture, denounce the treaty, rewrite the whole thing and get everyone's agreement all over again. He made it sound like sending a manned mission to Pluto.

It would all be the usual comedy except Mrs Tappin, wife of said businessman, had come to the committee. She read out a record of what had happened to her husband. Her voice never trembled but from time to time she paused carefully. She stopped before the end, and if you couldn't see her white knuckle across her mouth you wouldn't realise what she was concealing.

I hope she won't mind my recording what a magnificent example of contained and understated courage she was.