The Sketch: Question time brings Archangel Blair down to earth with a bump

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The Independent Online

Half way through prime minister's questions there, I came over quite elegiac, almost obituarial. Tony Blair, so long accustomed to soaring above the political firmament like an archangel was brought down to earth with a bump that knocked the structure out of him. You could actually see the struts and staples by which the wings had been attached to his back. Only low, pagan creatures could have enjoyed the experience and I was, frankly, startled to hear myself chuckling.

Half way through prime minister's questions there, I came over quite elegiac, almost obituarial. Tony Blair, so long accustomed to soaring above the political firmament like an archangel was brought down to earth with a bump that knocked the structure out of him. You could actually see the struts and staples by which the wings had been attached to his back. Only low, pagan creatures could have enjoyed the experience and I was, frankly, startled to hear myself chuckling.

Here, in no particular order, are a number of questions put to our leader followed by a summary of his answers.

Q: Fifty-two diplomats have written a letter claiming there is no effective plan for post-war Iraq. Do they have a point? A: I thought you voted for the war.

Q: After the handover of power, will the Iraqi government be able to deal with insurgents in the way they think best? A: At a time when we are trying to defeat terrorism, I would have thought our forces deserved 100 per cent support from the honourable Gentleman.

Q: Why have the regulations to regulate entry to Britain from the accession countries not been placed before the House (considering there are only three days to go)? A: When you were Home Secretary asylum seekers rose to 60,000.

Q: Why did you begin last week's cabinet meeting with an apology? A: "It was important to get ..." (rest of answer lost in mumbles).

Q: In the light of last week's decision to hold a referendum on the EU constitution, what is the prime minister's definition of cabinet collective responsibility? A: To provide more nurses, more doctors, more police officers and a million more jobs!

This is shabby stuff, by any standards, so Michael Howard was delighted. In response he came back with a number of counter-punches that shook the prime minister to the roots of his teeth. "If he thinks the fact that we voted for the war somehow disqualifies me from asking legitimate questions then he grossly misunderstands the nature of our parliamentary democracy!" he thundered. In recent times only The Sketch has risen to such heights of moral pronouncement. We need more of it.

And then there was the exchange that silenced the Labour backbench. The prime minister went a little white. He was asked when he'd decided to give Tuesday's speech on immigration.

Mr Blair went through a number of preliminary responses but none seemed to fit. So he said: "Months ago!" And why? Because it was an issue of such enormous public interest. Planned for ages! Michael Howard, in a courtroom scene we have all seen many times before, said, "That's interesting. At the end of last week a paper was circulated with all major government speeches scheduled, and there was no mention of it." That seemed quite serious to me, but I was only watching. Goodness knows what it seemed to Archangel Blair with his long, white pinions fluttering quietly to settle in the ordure around him.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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