The Sketch: Not a knockout blow on foreign policy, but the punches landed

Rory Stewart's smile displays two full octaves of piano-key teeth and looks like a tribal defence to ward off witchcraft
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The Independent Online

There were more important matters in the Foreign's Affairs Select Committee than Rory Stewart's face but that particular drama was right there in the room and everything else was in the future or halfway round the world. He's the young Tory MP who made a name for himself by walking across Afghanistan, a sort of 19th-century feat that endeared him to Empire romantics. Very nice voice, very good reputation but speech-length questions and a facial manner that could lead an opposition party.

Actually that's not true. When he smiles he makes Ed Miliband's smile look like Hugh Grant's smile. It comes from nowhere, displays two full octaves of piano-key teeth, stays like that for up to 20 seconds and switches off without warning. It looks like a tribal defence to ward off witchcraft.

But while he was staring at the Foreign Secretary with all these teeth he was asking about "bilateral resource personnel in the humanitarian corridor". That awful administrative dialect – the only foreign language the English speak any more.

And like Mike Gapes, he kept asking two questions. When will they learn? The preferred answer foreign secretaries give is: "If it changes in some fundamental way we would then want to make our assessment." It's very difficult to get them to say anything else.

So Frank Roy did well with his close reading of the British bits of the recent EU summit communique (most of it had appeared in previous communiques). He didn't get a knockout but the punches landed. The FO's line saves Cameron's face: "the recommendations weren't new – but they weren't in the draft." John Baron (a Tory who voted against the Iraq war) pressured Hague to admit that Iran wasn't currently in breach of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, and that the recent intelligence reports had nothing of certainty. The language of "perhaps" and "maybe" was anything but conclusive, and that UN Resolutions weren't always correct. We know that now, yes.

Questioned on military intervention, Hague said that HMG's policy was "not to rule out any options". Though let's remember, Jack Straw did exactly that saying that bombing Iran was "inconceivable"... So that's progress. Or regress.

And Sir John Stanley – an incomparable interrogator – chose the West Balkans as his subject and therefore asked questions that alas, I can't spell. In his answer, William Hague declared it was "vital to maintain the momentum of enlargement". As that's probably the one certain way of destroying the EU you can see why he says so.