The Sketch: Harriet the Roundhead had them roaring

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The Independent Online

So, that was Parliament 2009. It ended in a sort of banging whimper that matched the December weather outside. No one could fail to be depressed by the absence of anything happening. Questions asked, ignored, jibes made and passed over.

Our British thing, it is possible to believe, is sliding into a 10-year recession presided over by armed council employees Tasering anyone who intimidates them. Oh, and the world, of course, heading towards heat death.

The Government front bench looked like it was in opposition. And so did the Opposition's. That's what next year will be like. Two pygmy tribes opposing each other while their big, rich, jet-powered, multi-barrelled overlords loot the economy.

Government will be more difficult than at any time since 1979, opposition will be the safest place to hide from the electorate.

Gordon had felt humanity's hand on his shoulder (it's one better than history's) and had gone off to Copenhagen to save the planet. It's worked to the extent that we're still here.

So, between Harriet and Hague, nothing was said that could make any difference to the world we have or will have. They were attuning us more finely into the new futility.

There was a non-dom question which pleased Labour. People shouldn't sit in Parliament without paying British taxes. Harriet has her aphorism on this "no representation without taxation" – one of the most depressingly Roundhead lines you could come up with. Labour is delighted with it and points exultantly at the Conservatives every time she says it. Why? They have their own problems with non-dom donors in the Lords (it's why Gordon never joins in with the attack).

But Labour take heart from anything that lifts them higher than dust-level. And Harriet can do that. She came back with more than one retort which had them roaring.

A Tory asked one of those Christmas questions, wondering which fairy tale she would most like to take a moral from. Was it The Emperor's New Clothes? Was it (I couldn't hear) Three Little Pigs? The Princess and the Pea? Harriet said she didn't mind as long as they all kept away from the Brothers Grimm. A neat return of serve, straight down the tramlines. It created a sudden flare of happiness.

The Speaker did something odd. The House was rejoicing – and even the Tories laughing, hell even I was laughing a bit, and the Speaker became extremely authoritative. "Order, order!" he shouted. "Good humour is one thing, disorder is another!" We had a master at school who used to say things like that. He was not widely respected. "We must impress and reassure the public and not disgust them."

You have to do what and what and not do what?

We killed that master in the end and he was happier dead.

But a very happy Christmas to him. And to you, of course, from all of us here.