The Sketch: Quarantine could be the best thing to happen to this bunch

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The Independent Online

Everyone behaved very badly, you'll be pleased to know. Looking for the best in people, let's pretend they didn't mean to. If we have to apportion blame - which we don't, strictly, but practice always helps - it was the Speaker's fault. You've seen the action replay more than once, I dare say, there's no need to paint the whole picture.

Everyone behaved very badly, you'll be pleased to know. Looking for the best in people, let's pretend they didn't mean to. If we have to apportion blame - which we don't, strictly, but practice always helps - it was the Speaker's fault. You've seen the action replay more than once, I dare say, there's no need to paint the whole picture.

In the first moments of the incident, Gordon Brown's face was a study. It was absolutely immobile. It registered nothing. Generous souls would say this indicated stalwart imperturbability. I prefer to think of it as psychotic separation from the environment. What a set of mixed emotions he must have felt as the missile landed bang on the Prime Minister's back.

Then the Speaker made his mistake calling out: The sitting is suspended!" and led the charge for the doors. Mr Blair followed with an observable reluctance. He had been beating Michael Howard, for once, and must have been enjoying it.

Then the powder was thrown, the sitting erupted and David Maclean the Conservative Chief Whip sprang into action. "Out! Out! Out!" he yelled at his flock and the opposition benches started clearing at once. One hand held aloft his shepherd's crook (he is engaged, you may not know, in a heroic battle of his own, and this shepherding tool is more than a comfort but a practical aid). With large, semaphore-style gestures he barred the way south and drove them north up the benches. It was like a Normandy beach. Magnificent sight, the officer class in action.

Labour, lacking immediate instructions, milled around baa-ing. Some folded their hands over their faces, others decontaminated themselves with brushing gestures down their suits. That's the way to beat anthrax. John Prescott rose to the occasion by placing order papers over the powder bomb before exiting.

Then I noticed one of the guest galleries on the side, overlooking the chamber. This wasn't glassed in. The observers weren't being allowed out.

Why not? By that stage the authorities had realised that if the powder were toxic then victims shouldn't be let out to spread it around. Cynics might liken the situation to the Titanic where the privileged got to the lifeboats and the proles (or in this case, voters) were banged up on the lower decks.

In fact, the Speaker should have shouted, "Lock the doors!" Maybe he will next time. He must at all costs prevent 400 Typhoid Marys leaving the chamber to infect London. What a drama that would have been. Two-thirds of our parliamentary class would have been locked inside a de facto gas chamber, debating (by a happy irony) pensions. To the death. And with the gallery doors locked, I could sketch myself into eternity. A perfect end.

Many of us around Parliament suffer from attention deficit disorder (we just don't get the attention we deserve). The opportunity to die so that others might live is attractive to people like us, especially if we can do it on television.

Simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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