The Sketch: New Labour counts the votes in creationism and police pensions

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The Independent Online

Jenny Tongue asked a question yesterday. "Is the Prime Minister happy?" she said, and stood there amply, while the Labour benches roared "Yes!" for a quarter of an hour. "To allow creationism," she finally got out, "to be taught in schools alongside Darwinism?"

"I dunno," the Prime Minister said, "how many votes are there in it?" He phrased it slightly differently. We need a diverse system, he said. The more diverse the system, the better for our children.

Nothing in the Prime Minister's philosophical structure surprises us any more. Not even a defence of creationism. A more frivolous sketchwriter might offer you a biting biblical pastiche. But religion is not a fit subject for foolish jokes. I'm sorry, I make no apology for that.

Mr Blair relaunched his core values this week. Diversity has become a core value. Creationism is a pretty diverse value, maybe that's why it's New Labour. Certainly, it is capable of teaching children very diverse things – that the world was created in six days, and that the vast majority of the police are in favour of the Government's reform proposals.

Mr Blair told us that as well. Twice. The vast majority of the police force – the very police force that voted down his proposals with a majority of 86 per cent – actually support him.

Iain Duncan Thing was incapable of making anything of this extraordinary claim. He stuck to his script. How Ken Clarke would have pasted the Prime Minister all round the hall, given such an opportunity.

"They don't like it!" Mr Thing keeps telling the Speaker when Labour protests against his remarks. "They don't like it, Mr Speaker!" You can't blame them, no one else likes it either.

He was comparing and contrasting the Government's promises from 1997 with the current outcomes. You'd think, with the malarial state of the public services, he'd be able to make some headway. But by the mysterious alchemy of the Commons, his tired litany of failure works worse for him than it does for Tony Blair. "He promised to bring an extra 100,000 criminals to justice, but he's brought 80,000 less! And in London, there are 218 street crimes a day! And 150 knife crimes a week. And 250 gun crimes a month! And he won't even admit there's a problem!"

"I admitted there was a problem," the Prime Minister responded pertly – then told us there'd been a 15 per cent drop in street crime since the Met launched Safer Streets (if you believe that, you'll believe anything; creationism at an early age would have softened you up nicely).

The Prime Minister says there are going to be more police on the streets than there have ever been. Why? Because more money than ever is going in. So why do nine out of 10 crimes remain unsolved? A chief constable e-mailed me the other day with a possible explanation. A full 40 per cent of his head count are pensioners. He has to pay police pensions out of his current budget. It's why massive extra funds get swallowed up without trace, without effect and without one extra arrest.

However, a funded pension scheme for the police is less likely than anything to be found in Genesis.