The Sketch: Hewitt's ability to infuriate brings Tories to life

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The Independent Online

Medical research has discovered a use for Patricia Hewitt. But first some humorous remarks (I've got targets to meet like everyone else). Here you are: Bob Blizzard asked a question on wind power. Dave Watts never got to the Electrical Directive. Alex Salmond kept out of the fisheries question. And, disappointingly, the question of electrical transmission costs was avoided by Vincent Cable. That's met Monday's target as well, now back to the serious stuff.

Patricia Hewitt may be the cure for the obesity epidemic. Consider: you are fat. Dieting hasn't worked. You want to have a go at bulimia but you just can't get started. Turn on your TV for Trade and Industry questions and within seconds the screen disappears behind a spray of your last three meals. I have to attend her question time in a special suit (we won't go into it, but you wouldn't want to be there when I undo my waistcoat).

Tory Nigel Evans made a point (excuse the note of surprise). A small increase in energy efficiency, he suggested, would easily outweigh the vast sums the Government was paying into the renewable sector. This is a very good point, if it's true. If it's not true it's a very bad point. Being a Tory he hadn't done the sums. Brian Wilson (nitwit) said his argument was "very bad for debate".

Mr Wilson was pitiful, it's how he got the job. He read out his answers to supplementary questions and was unable to tell the difference between Chile and Norway. He adopted a lofty, stained-glass attitude to announce that over £3bn (oooh!) had been given in compensation to 400,000 (ahhh!) miners. I could only make the figures add up to 300,000 miners but there it was. Only later, after Bill Tynan's question, was the piety undermined. The average sum of around ten grand seems pretty low for buggered lungs, and 3,000 miners only got a couple of hundred quid. Meanwhile, the lawyers were paid £2,300 per case. How about that? They can't even give the money away properly. But then why do we expect politicians to be good at anything other than politics?

An astonishing mini-fact emerged. The average state pension for women was said by a minister to be £51 a week. If this is the average, some women get even less.

Ms Hewitt, emphasising every word in a way that made you want to strangle her, told us that Gordon Brown's pension strategy is a thing of beauty and a joy. Thanks to David Blunkett we know she's a strategic dunce. Eleanor Laing opposite incensed herself. She got up and hit her with the parliamentary equivalent of projectile vomit. It was like that bit in The Exorcist.

Those who know the Sketch won't need telling I mean that appreciatively. Ms Laing's show was the first real sign of life in the Conservative party for a very long time.