The Sketch: Evidence points to Gordon's cack hands

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The Independent Online

Des Browne stood up to withdraw the Prime Minister's party conference offer of troop reductions. Gordon and his cack hands. The fact that he'd announced it in the middle of the Tory party conference, prior to a planned general election, shouldn't be forgotten.

Des talked about our "overwatch" function. Apparently this needs the same number of men and machines as an active battle force. He told us a number of eye-stretching things. The Iraqi government's "steady progress" towards "ensuring respect for the rule of law". And the... but let's not bother with the details.

Des once made a distinction, in the tax credit overpayments fiasco between "official error" (compensatable) and "error by officials" (non-compensatable). He can say anything he likes about the blood and dust of Iraq and his linguists will work it to mean what he wills.

He delayed Jacqui Smith's opening of the Counter-Terrorism Bill. Again we see how Gordon's cack-covered hands have smeared brown prints all over it.

On the front bench, Vera Baird, sometime firebrand of the left, sat, ghostly pale. Flame-red hair rising out of her ashes. Imagine how she'd ululate about British liberty, were she on the other side of the House, and therefore on the other side of the argument. It's not politics that corrupts people, it's office.

Jacqui Smith may have been wearing a stab-proof vest under her top. The rubbish she talked was an open provocation. The Director of Public Prosecutions is famously against an extension of 28 days. She said they both had the same position. (Uproar!) What did she mean? She's been taking lessons from Des.

The scale of the threat is increasing so the law cannot remain "frozen". David Winnick heckled: "Let's have 180 days!" But with all the computer files, and new methods of encryption, 28 days simply isn't enough to crack these codes. To which David Davis made a quietly lethal injection: it has been a criminal offence for years to withhold the encryption key to computer files. How often had that power been used? The Home Secretary said she didn't know. "If she cannot tell us that, how does she know how many days she needs?" She replied in full: "Oh, fish hooks!" (Or something.)

The thing is, we normally arrest people because there's evidence they've committed a crime. Jacqui Smith wants to assume they've committed a crime and then start looking for the evidence. It's what English jurisprudence was like before 1215.