The Sketch: Is it a cheesy new game show? Does the loser fall into a vat of slime?

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The Independent Online

The Chancellor is so confident of the coming greatness he's organised Question Time into some after-dinner entertainment for parliamentarians. It's completely unintelligible to anyone outside the chamber.

When presented with hostile data and a question, he jumps up with a comic look on his face and reads out a quote from an opposition speech on a completely different subject. What game is it he's playing? What are the rules? Is it a pilot for Radio 4? Our future prime minister looks like a fat boy with a rolled-up newspaper giggling as he lashes about himself, hardly noticing when he falls on his face.

Vincent Cable, the Liberal Democrat MP for Twickenham, asked what the Treasury thought the economic consequences would be of a general fall in property prices. The Second Lord of the Treasury laughed happily to himself because the Liberal Democrats had been complaining about house prices being too high (he said) and now here they were complaining about them being too low (he said). Then he said prices weren't falling, they were "moderating". And then he read out something from a speech Mr Cable had given to some industry body, but only the bits complimentary to himself. He concluded triumphantly: "Why doesn't he say here what he tells the CBI?"

If this game show approach continues we must pull the lever and pitch him into a vat of slime. Will that appeal to younger voters? It depends how the low the voting age is taken to.

Left-wing mischief-maker Gordon Prentice is making a detour on his political journey. A few weeks ago he complained that many of his low-income constituents were in too high a tax band. Yesterday he noted that NHS dentistry was inadequate, that ordinary people were being forced to go privately and that they should be reimbursed by the Government for any fees they'd paid. I don't want to damage Mr Prentice's case by saying it's the most sensible thing he's ever said in Parliament, but it is not only practical but also moral.

Paul Boateng described it as "wasteful, poorly targeted and inequitable". It is a widely held view that Mr Boateng is an ass. God knows I've tried to defend him. Let me try again. It's not that Mr Boateng is stupid, it's more that pomposity - adopted to conceal his very proper lack of intellectual confidence - makes him say extremely stupid things. I hope that makes you think better of him.

Tories? Having failed to make "the moral case for low taxation" (despite his conference speech of that title) Oliver Letwin and the rest of his front bench are in a desperately insubstantial state. All they can do is wait for the Chancellor to reap what he has sown (fiscal holes, higher taxes, pension disasters, property crash).

But Gordon Brown, the Government's Second Lord of Spin, is rated by every poll in the category of "trust". It's easy to despair of the public. We're so gullible. But then it's probably the only reason we're allowed to vote.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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