The Sketch: Intimidated nitwits who are beneath contempt

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The Independent Online

"No one's reputation could fail to be damaged by his name on a paper alleging contempt of Parliament." So said an MP of some sort, in sympathy with Trevor Phillips, the head of the Equalities Commission.

It may be true for quango heads and other baronial elements in the political class – but my stock would rise sharply, I can't help thinking. So would yours. So would anyone's. We'd form a club and have dinner together. At the last toast we would rise and bare our backward parts at an effigy of Andrew Dismore MP.

The House was debating a privilege motion examining... exactly what I can't say. Trevor Phillips has been accused of bullying his staff and colleagues, and is now accused of contempt after he telephoned three members of the committee reporting on his institution.

Dismore brought the motion and Speaker Bercow allowed it. The solemn suggestion was that telephoning three committee members before the report was published was an infringement of parliamentary privilege.

What shrinking, shivering, cringeing, flinching, intimidated nitwits we have in the House. Is that contemptuous enough to get my name on a motion?

Committee member Fiona Mactaggart stood up for Phillips saying she'd been phoned by him, hadn't felt pressured, thought he was perfectly within his rights, and that the committee itself had treated him to a "show trial". Dismore was stung to reply that she was a new member and didn't know what she was talking about. Oh! Bullying!

Politics sometimes has elements of a contact sport. It isn't always, "No, Claude, after you." MPs should set an example of resilience. Health questions came first. If you want an image of Tory failure to put the moral case for Conservatism, here's where to start.

Lord help us if there's a hung parliament, both parties will be bidding up the largesse they can offer us from the public purse. Free home care for the elderly is but one of the bargains they'll compete to give us. The only real competition will be in who can be seen to lead the "consensus".

Labour's 12-year achievement shouldn't be underestimated. Socialism is all but here, unchallenged and unopposed. The state runs education, health, pensions and the banks. It spends more than 50 per cent of GDP and tells us where we can smoke and with how many hands to hold the steering wheel.

The Tories have no answer to this other than, "Bring back common sense!" It's why the gap's closing.

And finally, please let me share a Sarah Palin quote – you may have caught it already, it's not new but it was new to me. She contrasted more neatly than I'd thought possible President Obama's soaring campaign rhetoric with his current stumbling in the government. She said: "How's that hopey-changey thing going for ya?" The audacity of scorn!