I hope parliamentary enthusiasts didn't feel disappointed by yesterday's Sketch. If you remember, we confined ourselves to the procedural implications of the Hunting Bill, rather than on the first invasion of the House by malevolent intruders for 350 years. There are those who find entertainment in fist fighting on the floor of the House, the dragging of a protester across the chamber by his hind leg, the wretched Bill minister shrinking terrified into his seat, the magnificent sight of Sir Patrick Cormack getting a desperado in an armlock, and our foremost Man in Tights falling over his sword. There was that and more to ignore. The higher plane is more rewarding in the long term.
Our exalted Speaker continues to remind us that he's not up to anything that requires spontaneous thought, word or deed. The old booby had got wind that his arch enemy, the Leader of the House, was going to make some remarks about the previous day's sensation. He sprang into action. Introducing Business Questions he ruled any reference to it out of order. When Peter Kilfoyle was shut up, Denis Skinner remained on his feet. "Everyone else is talking about it!" he said. "Everyone else can talk about it, but not MPs!" That, incredibly, was the case.
The Speaker said any discussion on the subject is to go on in secret committees over the next weeks and months (and yes, years) where various sects and factions in the enormous Gormenghast that runs the Palace of Westminster will fight for their separate spheres of influence.
Personally, I'm very much behind the men in tights. If anyone really wants to blow up the House of Commons, nothing will stop them. I could myself next weekend, as a matter of fact, without ever setting foot in the place. It is a great mystery why no one has done it already.
It should also be said that there would be quite a positive side to a major terrorist act, if MPs featured in the casualty lists. Nothing could improve their standing with the public more. They would take their rightful frontline place in this thing they call the War on Terror.
Paul Tyler, for the Lib Dems, brought up the question of the condition of the Army kit and the Public Administration Committee's report on its defects. He referred to Sergeant Roberts, whose death was caused by a lack of sufficient body armour. Peter Hain, unable to mount any convincing defence, said: "I question the honourable member's tone. Whose side is he on? Is he the one who is carping and criticising and giving support to terrorists?"
The Guardian said the invasion breached the sacred something or other of democracy and was "beyond excuse". Many of us feel the same about these sorts of remarks from those sorts of ministers.
NB: Hints yesterday allow two predictions: 1) MPs' summer holidays will go back to being a month longer, and 2) we'll be building nuclear power stations within five years.
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- Feet (anatomy)