The Sketch: It wasn't the 'yes' that scared us, it was the 'absolutely'

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The Independent Online

In The English Patient, a sandstorm is raging and the couple shelter in a car. She asks, "Is it going to be all right?" He says, "Yes. Absolutely." She suggests that the "yes" is reassuring but the "absolutely" scares the pants off her (they were coming off anyway).

Nicholas Soames asked about equipment supplies in Iraq and got an "absolute assurance" from the minister. Mr Soames kept his pants on for the greater good but only those of us aching to believe Mr Hoon managed to. Mr Soames observed troops were doing guard duty without bullets. They hadn't passed their weapons handling test so were only allowed weapons that didn't fire. Also, troopers were going out on patrol without ambush training. Mr Hoon said he regretted this. The "political sideswipe", he regretted, that is.

To the Lords, to see the aftermath of last week's all-night sitting. The only thing that shook their heroic resistance, I thought, was when the argument became constitutional. The Commons was the superior House and must have its way, the Lord Chancellor said. I'm new to this, but I thought the Salisbury Convention would have applied: the Government must have its Bill (if it's a manifesto commitment) but the Lords have the right to amend it - as long as they don't amend it out of existence. The more we see of the Government guillotine working in the Commons the more important the Lords becomes. Maybe the convention will be invoked in the second reading of the Really, Really Serious Organised Crime That Threatens The Safety Of Us All Bill.

It is, as Lady Anelay said, a whopper. It covers £20bn worth of offences from international crack haulage to throwing up in public. It provides for a new super agency that gives police, revenue and immigration powers to civilians. And (it's worth following this) it is to be controlled directly by the Home Secretary.

The Government put it through the Commons with 40 per cent of its clauses undebated. Let's have a new rule: When MPs prate about the supremacy of the Commons - let them make sure they've had a chance to read the Bill out loud.

Last week, a peeress observed the terror Bill didn't define "terrorism". It was impossible to do, she said, without capturing anti-terrorism. In this Bill they have a provision to criminalise religious hatred. They haven't defined religion or hatred.

However, it is less chaotic an idea than it first appears. You can hate sin but love the sinner, after all. You can hate politics and yet love politicans, can't you? Well, try harder!