The Sketch: Miliband turns cartoon villain as things get a bit too close for comfort

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The Independent Online

The clue was in the personnel – the judge and the members of the torture inquiry team. None are temperamentally inclined to cause trouble; all would be sympathetic to the idea that security officers do a dangerous, self-sacrificing job. In the House, only Mark Durkan declined to join in "the canonisation of the security services". David Winnick sang a line to that. But Cameron is master and commander of the security services and he is therefore in their power.

The other clue was Cameron's description of security service misdemeanours as "hooding and shackling". In our secret counsels, those who went through boarding school 40 years ago don't count hooding and shackling as proper torture. Nor, I think, do the Pakistan, Egyptian or Algerian secret services.

Nonetheless, Cameron gave a decent, dignified, well-pitched performance and with no suggestion that he wanted to show that Labour was "soft on terror".

Yes, at that point Jack Straw chuckled away and pointed at – by some accounts, himself, and by other accounts at his bench neighbour David Miliband.

David was there displaying a new range of displacement symptoms, just for the occasion.

In one, he spread his fingers like a claw and tapped his talons on his thigh like a cartoon villain. Cruella De Vil, perhaps. Or Dr Evil discovered brooding in his lair, as his vast, malignant mind travelled over a problem.

He does have a particular problem with torture, and one that will fall within the inquiry's remit.

He signed "public interest immunity" certificates to prevent publication of the Binyam papers detailing what we might call "proper torture". Slicing of the penis. Putting salt in open wounds. Hanging and reviving.

It's particular for DMil because he is very touchy on the subject of fascist regimes. His parents fled Nazi Germany and he has revealed in committee a rather proprietorial relationship with the Holocaust.

Thus, to have collaborated in the suppression of torture evidence – for whatever reasonable reason – must have been a character-splitting moment for him. Nor will the poodling roll-over to US threats do much for his appeal to the Labour left.

Back to the House. Would court records be available to the inquiry, David Davis asked the PM? Miliband shook his head as the question was asked. But the answer was affirmative.

Will it directly affect DMil? Not proximately, he'll be leader, if he wins the leadership long before the inquiry reports. But the fact that he bowed to US pressure, why, that's reminiscent of the glory days of Tony Blair.

Davis also asked one of those bland questions of hidden significance. Who would decide what would be published – the inquiry, or himself? Cameron said it would be his own decision. Davis explained later this meant it would be the security services making the decision – Cameron couldn't do otherwise than send it out for redaction.

NB: Harriet Harman managed to respond to the statement without using the word "rendition".