The Sketch: Poodles take control of the dog days

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The Independent Online

They're very early this year, the dog days. Poodles mainly. The chamber is full of torpid poodles. The lethargy is palpable. Patricia Hewitt had her first outing as Health Secretary. As we listened to her suffocating voice I could hear what it would sound like if Stephen Hawking's voice box got an upgrade.

They're very early this year, the dog days. Poodles mainly. The chamber is full of torpid poodles. The lethargy is palpable. Patricia Hewitt had her first outing as Health Secretary. As we listened to her suffocating voice I could hear what it would sound like if Stephen Hawking's voice box got an upgrade.

I know we're supposed to be nice about new members and their nervousness. I'm too much of a conservative to break with tradition so, altogether please: Ahhhhhh!

Is that nice enough?

What a useless shower of arrested development they are. Quite without presence or command, they stand, heads in their notes, and read characterless questions in a flat recitative. They make no attempt to engage with their audience; they sound like sullen, whipped schoolchildren reciting a lesson in a foreign language they've been forced to learn.

People have been far too nice to them. They're not even trying. Not only are they incapable of saying anything interesting they're incapable of learning anything interesting to say. Wasn't the House of Commons once the central stage of our national political life? Didn't the young Churchill spend hours practising every inflection and gesture? Have these modern mechanicals done anything other than read through their questions in their heads? Why do they insult us like this? Can't we stop their pension rights?

The Conservatives lead the lethargy in an almost inspiring way. Very few of them turn up any more, a month out from the election. Their questions are without structure or strategy. We don't expect them to have policy this soon after their third crushing defeat - but the absence of principle is a little surprising, isn't it?

Oh, it isn't. You pay more attention than me, I'll take your word for it. One of the front bench stood up to ask a question about the health walk-in centres. Brilliant Tory idea, of course, to encourage little surgeries and clinics to open up here and there. If enough of them did so they could be sold off to groups of doctors. Then those of us who wanted to pay to avoid the four-hour queues in A&E could do so. Then there wouldn't be four-hour waits.

So the Tory told the House that patients suffering from chronic ailments far preferred an enduring relationship with their GP than walking in to these "centres" (dread word). Ten more years.

The new Labour backbencher Ed Balls shouldn't be asking questions. He knows everything already. He knows when the economic cycle is going to end. (He's told us more than once.) With that kind of foresight the man could be a billionaire, and yet there he was asking the most poodling, Blair-babe question so far. My bet is he'll poodle his way on to the front bench before the year is out.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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