The Sketch: Labour solidarity is back - and it's electrifying

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The Independent Online

It's clear the bench monkeys have been given extra training by Ms Pavlov in the Whips' Office. The Prime Minister offers some of the weakest parliamentary answers of his career and the Blonde Beast of the Front Bench presses her button. A violent charge runs through certain selected seats behind her and the occupants leap up sweeping their arms into the air, baring their teeth, shrieking, hooting, knuckling their armpits. The most faithful loyalists remove their underwear to wave their empurpled rumps. Labour solidarity is back. It's draining the national grid.

Sion Simon took a terrific charge (it's why your lights dimmed at 12.22). He rose with a cry of pain. Hunched and morose, he's been stalking the chamber for some months, looking like an audition for Richard III. He hooted, he screeched but then received a long surge of pain from the Blonde Beast's machine. He started a pitch to get votes back from the BNP. He sat down and disappeared through the Whips' trapdoor, he may never be seen again. This is not tribal politics but politics by taxonomy. It's very unenlightening.

Statement on the NHS finances. There's a comic moment in Me, Myself and Irene when the schizophrenic policeman tries to sort out a pack of bruisers. He adopts a street fighter's posture and boxes towards them throwing (what an eight-year-old would consider) a brilliant sequence of punches. The chief thug watches him approach, then reaches into the pick-up, pulls out a Tasar and carefully jabs it into the policeman's chest.

Andrew Lansley works towards the minister throwing eight-year-old jabs and tiny uppercuts. Patricia Hewitt reaches into her locker and pulls out her high-voltage instrument. "Does he want the NHS to get the best value for money?" she uses the central Tory question for her own argument and Lansley clutches at his chest. "Should poor areas continue to bail out better-off areas?" He falls to the ground like a sockful of sand. He is defeated in the argument. Whatever the inadequacies of the Government's positions on health, it still defeats the Opposition in argument. Patricia Hewitt is right. I can't say how much I resent writing that.

Power compromises governments. Oppositions don't have to suffer the consequences of their actions (or assertions, as they are, in opposition) but at least they never have to lose the argument. Lansley simply fails to make the argument. It's very hard to win anything when you're lying on the floor, twitching.

If the Tories ever get into office they will be faced with precisely the same problems the Government is faced with now and will, almost certainly, cut precisely as the Government is cutting now. Conversely, Patricia Hewitt will be denouncing the Tories for reverting to type by making the cuts she planned. The flailing will never end and we will be none the wiser.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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