The Sketch: Much of Labour's law-making is just cleaning up its own mess

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The Independent Online

An encouraging fact for cynics, sceptics and others of a treasonable nature. The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, passed to make much, much easier the repeal of regulations, has failed to repeal a single regulation in its first year of existence.

You may remember this Bill was described by David Howarth as the "Repeal of Parliament Bill" and that, as a result, we followed it a bit in standing committee. Hidden in one of its densest clauses was a device that would make it much, much easier for ministers to pass regulations without reference to either House, practically by fiat. Such a stink was kicked up that the clause was dropped, I think, and the Government lost interest.

There is a committee however, and it's meeting this week, so perhaps we can bring you some news. If "news" is the right word. Rumour has it that "discharging firearms from a stationary vehicle" may be re-legalised.

In microcosm, it provides a nice miniature of government in action. So much of their legislative effort is devoted to clearing up messes they have previously created.

Culture Questions. This is such a rubbishy department it can only be used to exemplify something else. Kelvin Hopkins suggests we subsidise jazz. Another gent complains brass bands aren't getting enough money from the Government. The minister dedicates himself to the oxymoron of "world-class community sport". Tom Brake says the state has a responsibility to ensure "people keep active".

They're all fine fellows but they seem to have no idea of any line that separates civil society from arbitrary executive power. The political class has consolidated and even the good guys find themselves testing their strength against the rest of us. They're all in it together. Labour, Tory, Liberals it'll take a revolution to reverse because it's all winding up on a one-way ratchet.

The Tories were in terrific good heart. They heckled ironically ("Shame! Answer!") they guffawed, they barracked, they urged on their colleagues. It was nauseating. If you are entertaining the idea of voting Conservative, I urge you to keep away from questions in the House. Boris asked a question. The Speaker ruled it out of order. As the minister had suggested the question was better answered in this particular slot that caused a ripple of resentment. But for Boris to be squashed by the biggest booby in modern politics does not bode well for his mayoral campaign. He is magnificently unprepared and needs a detail man to deputise. But who could it be? Ken Livingstone perhaps.

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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