The Sketch: Rambling leader goes on and on and on

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The Independent Online

Tony Blair talks too much. He's had it. Is there any more that needs to be said? He can still deploy his sense of humour; his courtesy is admirable. But he's had it. So he talks too much.

David Cameron asked him about the Chief of Staff's observation that we should lower our ambitions for Iraq. But the Prime Minister said: "No." He said much else as well, but he still wants the whole chocolate-sprinkled cappuccino for Iraq. And he will want it right up to the point that America says we should partition it into three, and have it ruled by strong local leaders with the cattle prods we have provided.

Cameron did perfectly well, but it bears repeating that Blair in his position would be eviscerating the government. Just glance at the range of targets. But evisceration is no longer a core value of the New Tory brand.

James Paice asked one of the old sort of questions: "... chaos of the rural payments agency led to a £141m fine by the EU. The government was warned about the difficulties in June 2005 and yet keeps the CEO sacked in May on full pay and promotes the minister responsible to Foreign Secretary?"

At which, Blair talked too much. John Prescott beside him had on his 3am face; he looked like a man standing on a bridge staring down into the dark eddies. The back benches sat like pebble stones. The Prime Minister rotted slightly on his feet and sat down.

Were the emergency services called to Committee Room 8 after I left? Joan Ryan was appearing before the European Scrutiny Committee and boy did they scrutinise her. Citizen Carr was dismayed; Sketch Carr rejoiced (sometimes I despair of myself).

The minister doesn't actually wear Marigolds at the despatch box but she is a pleasant, unprofessional sort of presence in Parliament. And were she responsible for something that doesn't matter and will never do anything (the Modernisation Committee comes to mind) there could be no objection to her. But she is in charge of ID cards and the negotiations on the passerelle (the EU device to take in hand much more power for itself).

So it matters that she has a brain like a box of Cheerios. Her rambling, four-minute introduction was summarised by David Borrow in 12 seconds. She called for a mature debate but wouldn't tell the committee what the debate was going to be about. She failed to comprehend questions. She had no idea whether someone denying the Holocaust in Britain could be extradited to Austria. And would EU arrest warrants have to be validated by British courts? There were Cheerios all over the committee room.

"I think I have been very open," she said, piteously. And it was only too true.

sketch@simoncarr.co.uk

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