The Sketch: Headless, heartless and gutless, the Tories are lost for words

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The Independent Online

As revealed in this newspaper yesterday, the record for a chicken surviving without its head is 18 months. It was called Mike. In the end, it choked to death on a corn kernel.

As revealed in this newspaper yesterday, the record for a chicken surviving without its head is 18 months. It was called Mike. In the end, it choked to death on a corn kernel.

On a different topic, the Conservative Party is in surprisingly robust health considering. Considering what? Considering it's headless, heartless, gutless and more or less legless too. Nine points behind in the opinion polls, its leader, also called Mike, was reduced to whining - whining, I say! - in The Guardian that Tony Blair has stolen the Conservatives' language.

Blimey, Mike, keep away from corn kernels, won't you? The full scale of Tony Blair's dominance is hard to envisage. If he's stolen Tory language he's forced his own ghastly language on them. They have to twist their lips round the unfamiliar syllables in words like "vulnerable" and "sustainable" and "community". Oh how they hate saying it - but no more than we hate hearing it.

He's also dragged the Tories into his own boggy ground - they've signed up to European levels of tax and have undertaken to outspend the Government on state education and socialised health. Mr Blair can do anything he likes with the Tories. Look - he's forced them to repudiate their great ancestral ally, inspiration and spiritual mentor, America. America!

The Tories have been marginalised on Europe and driven out of Washington. Tony Blair has beaten them, by fair means as well as foul, in every argument they've had in the House and out of it.

Some of the foul means are pretty odorous, but it seems to make no difference. Yesterday, Mike was trying to embarrass Mr Blair onnew forms Met officers will have to fill out. Every time they stop someone they have to fill out a seven-minute form. This bureaucratic piece of rubbish took up four of Mike's allocation of questions. But Mr Blair finished with a long quotation praising the Government's policing plans and strategies ... from Oliver Letwin (Labour cheers, roars, hoots).

Of course Mr Blair's quotation was at a level of dishonesty that would make you white with anger if it was anything to do with you, but in the absence of effective opposition that's what he gets away with. Tories have to make the moral case for low taxation. That's where the argument starts, but its conclusions reach everywhere. The Government justifies the introduction of ID cards because it wants to check on benefit claimants. The higher the level of tax the more extensive the right of the state to monitor those receiving the benefits. This is a moral argument, one of many. There is much more philosophical work to be done before Tories use the word "vulnerable", even in the privacy of their own bathrooms.

The Tories should be campaigning as if freedom mattered. How astonishing that on the eve of the Parliament Act, Mike didn't bring up the subject of hunting. They've not just been eviscerated but decapitated.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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