The Sketch: Loyalists belittled by opportunism and argument

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The Independent Online

After the debate on university top-up fees some years ago, I wondered why one of Labour's well-known lefties had voted for the left's most hated measure of the day.

"You have to think of your constituents," he said. And when I asked, a little incredulously, what he'd got for his benighted voters he said simply: "A hospital."

Is that shocking? I find it hard to tell any more. What is certain is that there's been a terrible inflationary pressure under the price of an MP. For supporting 42 days they accused each other of demanding compensation for miners, recognition of Cuba, £3,000 for detainees and a £200m rebate for Ulster's water authority.

If Andrew Robathan is right, it'll be Sir Keith Vaz by the end of the parliament (Sir Keith blushed but didn't rule it out entirely).

At the higher end of thedebate, Nick Palmer seemed to declare himself for the rebels when he said: "I'm not going to support unprincipled opportunism!" It would have been a spectacular rebel gain as Mr Palmer would eat his own feet if the whips asked him to.

It's unlikely anyone's mind will have been changed by the debate but for sheer altitude, the opposition arguments towered over the Government's.

David Davis (who has come out of this a hero) dismantled all and every proposition for extension. He told us that neither the commissioner nor the head of counter terror had produced any evidence to show the need for an extension. That all the operative evidence in the three famous cases was gathered in under 12 days. That the government lawyer David Pannick had endorsed the Civil Contingency Act as a suitable response vehicle for emergencies. And he squash-ed Chris Bryant's loyal intervention (and what a falling off he represents) with the remark: "The case he's making is for indefinite detention." The power the Home Secretary seeks is supposed to be for a, "grave, exceptional terrorist threat" but after Bob Marshall-Andrews read out the list of things it covered he was able to ask: "Can she give us an example of something that is not a serious terrorist threat?" Yes, they'll be using it for crimes against recycling, in the end.

Superb speech from Diane Abbott, fine interventions from Mark Durkhan, large grave advice from Michael Mates, intelligent needling from Dominic Grieve, and a great victory in the end for the Northern Ireland Water Board (now flush).

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