The Sketch: From collaborator to revolutionary, the reinvention of Jack Straw

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The Independent Online

What's to become of Handsome Jack when the new regime takes over? Tried as a collaborator with the occupying forces or treated as a hero of the revolution?

His demotion rules him out of the first category, and his failure with the Lords reform will rule him out of the second. What about Deputy Prime Minister? He's got the suit. He's likeable. He's no threat. But he's too senior to stand a risk of losing (and losing is what usually happens in politics). How about back to the Foreign Office? He did, after all, challenge Tony Blair over Iran. He went on the record saying that the idea of bombing Iran was "nuts" in order (off the record, as I understand it) "to tie the Prime Minister's hands". That gives him a locus in the argument that Peter Hain lacks.

But, you object, what of the fact that under his lovely suit he is King of the Lizard People? Oh, we can tolerate that, in this age of diversity.

He was presented with a number of unanswerable questions at Business yesterday, and he failed to answer with amiable finesse.

1.) Why isn't the Pensions Bill taking oral evidence in its committee according to his own innovation? "Ask me another," he didn't quite say.

2.) That research document that came from the Government - billed as "a unique insight into the mind of the British public" - had 90 pages deleted. Why? Was it saying the Government was so popular that it would be boastful to reveal it? (He hadn't seen the report.)

David Heath took him back to last week's answer on the pulling of the Serious Fraud Office investigation into BAE's Saudi bribery. Jack took his leader's word at face value and repeated it in the House. The SFO, according to the Prime Minister, could only find "insufficient evidence"; but according to the SFO they were hot on the trail. Straw promised to look at what he said and has a week to decide whether to drop the Prime Minister in it again. He'll have to do it without seeming to do it. New Caesars always execute the old Caesar's assassins.

MPs again displayed their hostility to any dramatic exegesis that doesn't include them. Keith Vaz wants Channel 4 to have its public funding withdrawn if they don't tar and feather Jade Goody. The natural conclusion will serve his cause far better: Goody and the other baddies get voted off and fragrant whatever her name gets another few hundred thousand to add to her Bollywood-sized appearance fee. It's also worth noting that Goody's language and attitude has been Corinthian compared with the things that were said about her ("pig" being one of the tabloid favourites). But that's something else you can't say in the Commons.

sketch@simoncarr.co.uk

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