The Sketch: Humming in the House, and a radiant minister

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The Independent Online

When the House's ventilation system started humming we looked about, wondering what Sarin smelt like. We needed a canary in a cage to reassure us the air was still breathable but all we had was Hazel Blears. If she stopped speaking and fell over we were staring death in the face; if she continued we'd have to listen to her. Which would you prefer? It's a close call, isn't it?

When the House's ventilation system started humming we looked about, wondering what Sarin smelt like. We needed a canary in a cage to reassure us the air was still breathable but all we had was Hazel Blears. If she stopped speaking and fell over we were staring death in the face; if she continued we'd have to listen to her. Which would you prefer? It's a close call, isn't it?

Friends of Ms Blears will be pleased to know she is flourishing. She radiates enthusiasm and optimism, she has the air of someone who feels she was born to be a minister. I don't mean this in a good way. I sometimes look down the ministerial benches and wonder who would sign the transport warrant sending me off down the line, if circumstances were different. It's a strange and speculative game, but personally, I wouldn't want Ms Blears' pen hovering over my details.

What else? More police! The front bench boasted, as they do, of the rise in police numbers, pointing out that Michael Howard as Home Secretary, cut numbers. Tories always take this taunt dumbly. Why don't they say: True! We cut police numbers and crime fell by 19 per cent! Now we have more police, more violent crime and a soaring prison population! It's a debating point, at least.

Beverly Hughes gave us her immigration statistics with a straight face. There is a new delay in her department. It's gone from six to 10 months. Why? She said it was because "more resources are being invested" in the problem. By a pleasing symmetry, her enormous backlogs are cut when fewer resources are applied. Some 29,000 citizenship applications, for instance, were rushed through because there wasn't the manpower to check the documents.

Angela Watkinson worried that some of these 29,000 people might be terrorists. Not in the sample Ms Hughes checked, all 100 of them.

This is the reality in the "war on terror". For all the consensual prattle we get about the great job our security services do, our borders are open and security so lax Greenpeace could get laughing gas in the ventilation system if it wanted.

Why hasn't terror hit London? When one sketch writer and three useful idiots could bring the country to a standstill?

A Tory MP privately suggests London is the HQ of international terror, and any outrage here would provoke a reaction that would disturb their efforts elsewhere. That made me feel more secure than any boasts of the Home Office.

Simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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