The Sketch: It's Kafka, cried Ian Thing. Yes, oldies are being turned into cockroaches

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The Independent Online

Too many parents are killing their children for Debra Shipley's liking. It's happening twice a week. She asked the Prime Minister whether he would undertake to carry out some legislation stop it happening. The Prime Minister agreed it was a very important thing to do and he would do it.

Bad things happen, so parliamentarians pass a law. It's a form of therapy.

It's what they do because it's all they can do. The fact that a hundred years ago there were already enough laws to curb any sort of behaviour at all (certainly murdering your children) is beside the point.

That amiable Ian Thing said: "Since the Prime Minister came to power, 50,000 care beds have closed down. Is it anything to do with his policies?" "No," the prime minister said, to laughter. The reason that the number of care beds was falling, Mr Blair said, was because private care home owners were selling off their property and making a lot of money in the process.

That evil, profit-taking private sector. Joan Humble returned to this theme later in another child-related question. An eight-year-old had been attacked by a dog on private property. What could be done? "Obviously a very serious matter," the Prime Minister said. "It may have wider implications." He may have been working on a solution: if land were nationalised, no child would be attacked by a dog on private property ever again.

This is by the way. Mr Thing's view is that the care sector regulations (wake up!) imposed on the care sector cost so much that any money put in gets swallowed up. Nurses with 20 years' experience have to go and pass an exam. A perfectly good boiler has to be replaced with a new £30,000 one. An expert has said the whole NHS plan will run into the sand if the care home problem isn't sorted out. We could all feel the peroration coming on.

There were no operations because there were no beds, and there were no beds because there were no homes. "That's Kafka care!" he cried. Whether the elderly were being dragged into a kangaroo court to be tried without being charged or whether they were all being turned into cockroaches he didn't make clear.

The Prime Minister said £300m had been allocated to alleviate delayed discharges. And so successful was the spending that 1,000 beds had been freed up. Thirty thousand pounds a bed seems a bit steep, doesn't it? How does £300,000 a bed sound, when you've done the math for the second time? Even those of us who no longer expect to take seriously anything the Prime Minister says were surprised.

In the emergency debate the Tories did quite well. Now we're six months into the Afghanistan action, it is the right time to ask: "Why were such fulsome assurances made that our troops would only be committed to Afghanistan for three months?"

"The position is precisely as the Prime Minister has set out," Mr Hoon said, mischievously perhaps. He knows nothing is precisely as the Prime Minister has set out. As indeed do we.

Simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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