The Sketch: Prescott roars to victory in battle of the swamp

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The Independent Online

After Prescott, I went off to look at a Committee on Delegated Legislation about Double Tax arrangements (Poland). What a difference. From the barnyard to the boneyard. The deep, deep peace of delegated legislation with Dawn Primarolo is restorative, at my age.

In that other place, both sets of backbenchers are in high spirits. Labour chatter and barrack through wounded-soldier or cancer questions (normally, piety stills them). And when a Tory stands up his colleagues now produce a communal lowing sound. It's hard to describe but it's somewhere between a groanand the noise of tired, middle-aged rugby players going into a scrum. "Yeaaaaghhh" has too many vowels in it and looks too individualistic for the animal sodality of their public mood. The most damaging aspect of it is that it sounds playful.

I'm avoiding the start of this Prescott story.There was a very good first, written question: How many wounded soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan had the PM visited? None, is the answer. But there the question was in black and white. How was the PM going to avoid answering it? By brilliantly being in Riga, as it turned out. The Deputy Prime Minister was standing in for him. What would he say? Is the line that the Prime Minister never comments on his visits to wounded soldiers a) because it's a private matter? Or b) because he's reluctant to get within spitting distance of men who've lost the means to do anything else? The DPM chose the least likely option. This sort of visit was just between the Prime Minister and his soldiers. The Prime Minister wouldn't want to play politics with something as serious as Iraq.

Normally Prescott beats Hague. The last time they met he produced a brilliant impression of a defective schoolboy: "I know me grammar's not what it might be and lacking the gentleman's eddication," was the impression he left behind, before going on to wallop his tormentor for lacking judgement.

Encouraged by that he went a little ahead of himself amid farmyard scenes we haven't had for years. Roaring, heaving, bellowing, mooing, pointing at itself - the body politic sounded like a fight in a swamp.

Prescott became more and more exercised. His whole body nearly got taken over by one of his scowls. His head looked like a vast, troubled hernia.

Oh, the pain in that man's face. It was at the height, or depth, of this that he said the Conservatives were full of tossers. It's there in Hansard. Tosser. Party opposite's full of them. The noble profession. I hope he's not planning on sketch writing when he retires?