The Sketch: Labour's druid heralds vocal fightback to save England's ancient trees

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The Independent Online

The first time I was aware of Mary Creagh she was a woman who looked like a boy. "Best of both worlds," the sketch said. "It's the third way. She'll prosper in New Labour." Then she ran a campaign for the regulation of freelance dance teachers, or having to get a license to smack your children, or – I've got it now – making it illegal for bathwater to be hotter than 38 degrees. There or thereabouts. She thanked me for my support, I remember. She had talent, you see.

My word, she's lost her boyishness now. Her full, womanly voice fills the Commons like an incoming airstrike, she's taken her accent down 2.5 sub-classes, and when she loses her glimpses of humour she'll be Yvette Cooper by another name. You sense the horrified admiration.

She was in full cry this week saving our forests. The government proposal was "environmental vandalism", it was "economic madness". And did she talk about "ancient trees worshipped by our ancestors"? She did, you know. It's the first shot for the movement to replace New Labour with Druid Labour. Denis Skinner at the despatch box, circumcising ministers with a golden sickle. It'll be a golden age for sketch writers too.

Her talent in the Chamber has developed. A minister, James Paice, intervened to ask her how many acres of "ancient trees" Britain actually had. No one has ever made such a brilliant reply: "The answer is he doesn't know!" she cried.

Caroline Spelman, the Secretary of State for Angry Environmentalism (I misheard the agri-environmentalism), has an uncertain vocal presence. The soothing contralto she has on television breaks into a fractured mezzo in the House. Anne Widdecombe's voice coach is powerless to improve her.

She repeatedly squawked at the House that public access for ramblers, riders and cyclists to the sold-off land was to be better than it is now. Guaranteed. Fundamentally. No question. Black and White. People are still arguing about what she meant.

PS: John Healey, an apology. I'm really sorry about John Healey. He seemed a perfectly nice fellow, and then he delivered a speech to the PLP last week saying that David Cameron had used the death of his son to detoxify his party's reputation on the NHS.

This speech, I said, "must have been" devised by or at least approved by Healey's pal Ed Balls and his party leader. Healey has written in to say that it wasn't. It's true, the only evidence I had to support the suggestion was that it sounded so like the sort of thing Damien McBride used to put out. I am happy to withdraw that assertion. It was Healey's work alone. Though why he wants to make that point so strongly, I don't know.