The Sketch: Political class divide favours the well-mannered over foul-tempered

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The Independent Online

It's true there was a verbal scuffle in the entrance to Labour Party headquarters, and yes I told one of the volunteers to shut up (will roses do?), and yes, it's also the case that I instructed one of Labour's more senior functionaries to attempt an aeronautical act of auto-eroticism. But I can't bear a grudge (I'm sorry, I can't). These events should not be allowed to discredit the most important report that's ever been made on the doorstep of Labour Party headquarters.

It's true there was a verbal scuffle in the entrance to Labour Party headquarters, and yes I told one of the volunteers to shut up (will roses do?), and yes, it's also the case that I instructed one of Labour's more senior functionaries to attempt an aeronautical act of auto-eroticism. But I can't bear a grudge (I'm sorry, I can't). These events should not be allowed to discredit the most important report that's ever been made on the doorstep of Labour Party headquarters.

They're going nuts. Right in front of our eyes they're in the process of going completely nuts. Not just Labour, this isn't a matter of a party as our leader likes to say; it's not even western. It is the universal aspiration of the political class to put itself beyond the reach of outsiders.

They're detaching themselves from us and disappearing into their own wonderland. The political class in Britain is on the cusp of becoming an autonomous, self-perpetuating, hermetically sealed class which you enter at birth (the hereditary principle is very strong).

"Security" will be one of the most important tools to dramatise their self-importance. Waiting for my pass later in the day I fell in with our education correspondent. His application had been rejected because the passport photograph - recognisably him in every detail - had taken off the top of his head a little below the hairline. The process wouldn't let his application through. What cattle are we becoming. And how corralled we let ourselves be.

"Why should we give someone with your attitude a pass to our press conferences?" the functionary later asked me on the telephone. He's a very nice fellow, I'm told. He meant, perhaps, why should we give a foul-mouthed, bad-tempered journalist access to our leader's special moments. But we have noticed that being a foul mouthed, bad-tempered journalist doesn't of itself exclude one from the higher reaches of the Labour Party. Had I been a foul-mouthed, bad-tempered hater of the Tory party I think my "attitude" would have been overlooked.

By the time of the next election it will be easier to see the Queen than the leader of the Opposition, let alone the Prime Minister. No one will be responsible; all will be pleasant and well-mannered about it (I'm excluding myself, obviously). When we ask in 10 years' time whose fault it was, who is accountable for it, there'll be no one to blame.

In other news, Michael Howard launched his manifesto. Jon Snow's interjections roused him (it's an impressive sight). But Steve Richards' point is hard to dispute. The savings Mr Howard claims from the James report will take time to come through, why won't the Tories face the same black hole they say Labour will face? Mr Howard dealt with this and other hostile questioning pretty well - that is without actually eating the questioner. Early days yet, of course.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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