The Sketch: Fog of jargon and evasion engulfs Home Secretary

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The Independent Online

If you can get your hands on Hansard of Thursday last week you might want to keep it as a historic document. It's not quite Magna Carta but at column 608 it says: "The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr Bob Ainsworth): Absolute bollocks."

It's more like that edition of the Bible that left the "not" out of the adultery commandment. We don't often get ministers saying this sort of thing except on the website of Martianfm (which the Sketch recommends for the filthiest parliamentary reporting in the free world).

John Baron brought it up as a point of order, questioning whether this phrase was now parliamentary language. The Speaker declared that from the audio-visual record it was "not possible to determine what was said". Therefore, the phrase would be removed from the permanent record.

Was it really not possible to hear it on the recording? In the old days (before people said things like this in Parliament), you might have gone to the minister and asked him whether he'd said it or not. Now, it's whether you can prove it in a tribunal. Tony Baldry (who challenged it at the time) is pretty clear about what he heard. Hansard's integrity is obviously unassailable. But presumably Bob Ainsworth has found some clever way of removing himself from the line of fire.

Frankly, I blame myself. The Sketch has used the word too often. It's soaking down through the gallery into the Chamber. I'm sorry. Very sorry.

Home Office questions. The Government is in the aggressive phase of Operation Cheerful Face. They smile, they laugh, they look ostentatiously at ease. Keith Vaz, head of the Home Affairs Committee, came perilously close to accusing the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith of lying. Her claim that her reduced pay policy was providing an extra 800 police officers was "untrue and wrong".

"Let's be clear," she said, accelerating into a fog of jargon, evasion, selected facts, specious argument and managerial ainsworth. There was the sound of a distant crash but she had achieved her objective: no one was listening.

Anthony Steen asked why human trafficking wasn't a core priority for the police. "Lugs" McNulty replied: "It is."

Ainsworth! Blinking, bouncing ainsworth!

They're only just getting around to ratifying the EU convention on trafficking after years of faffing around the issue.

David Davis asked whether the Government had a view on whether there was an upper limit on immigration to Britain. After her answer he said there was only one word to describe what she'd said. And I think we all know what it was.

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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