The Sketch: Labour's biological weapon to the rescue

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The Independent Online

We all agree, don't we, that Tony Blair is losing his grip? Polls say so.

Pundits say so. People who want it to be so say so. Monday's Hunting Bill helped the case along nicely. A mere handful of government supporters backed the Prime Minister while the vast majority followed the radical, class-war alternative to ban hunting.

So, as Mr Blair walked into the chamber for PMQs, he was alone, and only one man could save him; only one man could rally the government benches and rescue him from their fatal indifference; only one man ... but enough of this. Mr Thing made a heroic rescue. His attack on Mr Blair was so comically misdirected that Labour swung behind its leader with a great roaring sound that gave Mr Blair, briefly, the standing of Attlee.

Had Mr Thing followed the Sketch's advice, he would have buried Mr Blair by praising him. How Labour squirms and fumes when its leaders are praised by the Tories. How it does the opposite when they are attacked. Whatever Mr Thing has in his brain, it will make a comforting duvet for his grandchildren.

Charles Kennedy returned to the weapons of mass destruction. This claim that Iraq could deploy a chemical or biological attack within 45 minutes. Was it in the security service's original draft report? Jack Straw said it wasn't; Alastair Campbell said it was. Mr Kennedy wanted to know which claim was correct.

The Prime Minister said: "The matter has been clarified." I still wonder what that means. The PM went on: "The charge that, contrary to advice, the 45-minute claim was inserted into the dossier last September, is false."

Even more confusing. What are we to make of it? It is possible that the single-source, 45-minute claim was forced into the draft in, say, May? Is that it? It may depend on what the word "is" means.

This textual suppleness is evident everywhere in the Government's pronouncements. Mr Blair says there is a dramatic increase in the number of heart operations being done. How have they fiddled that? It's clear how they've shortened waiting lists for heart patients (they don't allow sufferers on the list). But actually to reduce the number of heart deaths ... they must have designated heart disease as something else.

We're about to find a mysterious increase in deaths from "natural causes". (What can be more natural than to die when your heart stops?)

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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