The Sketch: How the Queen's strong, clear voice exposed a fraud

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The Independent Online

Who - or more particularly what - is Bluemantle Pursuivant? He hasn't been in the royal procession for the State Opening before has he? He now seems to be number two on the list. He's below Fitzalan Pursuivant Extraordinary but to the left of Rouge Dragon Pursuivant. He was developed in the 15th century and almost certainly therefore counts as part of the Lords modernisation programme. He is part of the College of Heralds.

Who - or more particularly what - is Bluemantle Pursuivant? He hasn't been in the royal procession for the State Opening before has he? He now seems to be number two on the list. He's below Fitzalan Pursuivant Extraordinary but to the left of Rouge Dragon Pursuivant. He was developed in the 15th century and almost certainly therefore counts as part of the Lords modernisation programme. He is part of the College of Heralds.

But what does he do? All I can find out about him is that he has been "conducting heraldic ceremonies in Canada". Is that still legal, you ask, after eight years of Tony Blair? Perhaps, like King Arthur, they will come forth in the country's hour of need and stand in the way of tyranny. For the time being, they serve out their community sentence in their Hazel Blears-style uniforms, loitering in the corner of the House of Lords.

Here's a repartee good enough for any anthology. It was given to me by the eminent Australian journalist Paul Mulvey next to whom I happened to be sitting. Alas, being an outstanding piece of Australian wit it's far too rude to reproduce here. No, no, I'm sorry, this is the State Opening of Parliament, the Queen's about to come in. No, there are proprieties to - oh, all right. Gough Whitlam had insulted an MP in the Australian House.

"You can't talk to me like that," the man said, "I'm a Country member!"

"I do remember," Mr Whitlam replied, to delayed laughter.

The Queen sat down and began the best part of the parliamentary calendar: a full three minutes of silence and inactivity. Charlie Falconer handed her the speech and she read it out.

The more obviously fraudulent passages sounded very bogus in her strange, clear voice. A "sustainable income for those in retirement" sounded particularly unlikely, as did "fostering a culture of respect". Let alone "streamlining regulatory structures" not to mention preventing poverty in Africa, climate change, terrorism, drug smuggling and international crime.

Yes, there's much to do, as our clean-living, straight-limbed PM reminded us later, in the Commons.

After two of the worst Labour speeches in 650 years, the Prime Minister rose in all his easy authority to charm the House and to reaffirm his intentions. He's still worth fifty quid, you know, for a fourth Blair-led victory. A rise in the US dollar will eviscerate Gordon Brown's plans "to entrench stability" - but don't get me started on that.

The Chancellor sat making the notes he always makes and shielding them obsessively from the person on his left (David Blunkett, in the event).

You should note that Mr Blair has shifted the justification for identity cards from an anti-terrorism measure to an anti-illegal immigration measure. If the Tories ever want to win an argument against Mr Blair they're going to have to work much more ferociously on their argumentation.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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