The Sketch: Of laws and wars – the battle to avoid responsibility

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Now there's an Autism Bill. They're going to make a law (or "put on a statutory basis") to define how the authorities should deal with autistic people. This is absurd. This is insane. This is politics.

The point of the law is to make the Tories repeal it, or ignore it. Then they can say: "Tories are not just ignoring the plight of people, they are defying the law! Cameron should be prosecuted, fined and if he refuses to pay, jailed!"

Isn't that the consequence of law breaking? You can't have a law that has no penalties, otherwise it's just official advice, like needing to eat five pieces of fruit and vegetables a day. If the incoming prime minister can't be prosecuted for breaking this law, it's not a law.

You might as well pass a law to make child poverty illegal. Oh, they're doing that as well? But abolishing child poverty takes time, doesn't it? I thought one parliament couldn't bind another. What next? A law to... I'm thinking hard, a law to require 40 per cent of our electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020?

They're doing that too? But that's like (in Vince Cable's phrase) a government making "a living will". Except wills are enforceable. They are legal documents – which now seem to be different from laws.

Labour groaned at the third helicopter question in PMQs. Oh Gawd, not that old chestnut. Or, in polite language: "I thought it wrong he sought to make party political points on an issue of cross-party consensus."

How many helicopters do you assume we've got in Afghanistan? A couple of hundred? Twice that? It's hard to have too many. You need choppers to lift the wounded out, to ferry troops about, to host dignitaries for 25 per cent of the time, and to use in battles to rush armed men in round the back of a battle to kill the enemy (it's a war, as we are told now).

Cameron never got the helicopter number out of Brown's mouth. All he could get was there'd been a "60 per cent increase in two years".

That's a 60 per cent increase on 20 machines. Twenty. Now we have about 30 helicopters in Afghanistan.

I was talking to an old friend and ex-minister about this after PMQs. About how long it takes to refit a helicopter with a new engine, "For ****'s ****, ****," I said, "you and I could do it in a month with just a manual and a set of spanners."

He said, "It's not like that. And why are you calling me ****?"

I'm changing your name to protect your family, you expletive!"

I bet that 84 per cent of MPs who hold the government line on helicopters in Afghanistan know no more about it than **** knows. Which is no more than you or I do.