The Sketch: Signed, sealed, delivered – a good name ruined

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The Independent Online

I hadn't heard the news but there was clearly blood in the water. You could tell by the way the blood-seeking creatures started to gather.

The Cabinet came one by one. Straw, Harman, Hain, Kelly, Balls. The Foreign Secretary ended up cross-legged on the aisle (a first, I'd say). Philip Hammond came in early for the Tories and we thought it would be a lesser affair. But then Osbo arrived, followed (blimey!) by Cameron. Darling came gliding in and then ("He's here!" Tories murmured excitedly) the Prime Minister.

It was just past half past. "Point of order!" Denis MacShane called, so pleased with the universal air of expectancy. "I think the last thing anybody is interested in is a point of order," the Speaker said, with magnificent disdain.

There were gasps as the Chancellor told us things we hadn't known. Amazing things; gasps – normally affectations but not this time. Half the country's bank details! Both Brown and Balls sat with heads in that Mt Rushmore pose they do; Miliband not able to control his features (oh, he was far from grieving).

Mr Darling created a favourable impression, in his administrative role. He was quite vulnerable (something the House warms to). Vulnerable, modest, and credible. But the scale! Twenty five million people's details in the post, unregistered! Not even on a signed-for!

He made us laugh more than once. His advice not to give out bank details to strangers on the phone went particularly well.

Osbo pitched carefully: Labour couldn't rise up in indignation. Vince Cable set out (again) a series of powerful questions, the most damaging first: just weeks ago something very similar happened and we were assured "arrangements had been reviewed".

Everybody behaved so maturely (aside from Miliband's cheerfulness), it's hard to see how permanent damage will manifest – with one exception.

Several MPs said a national identity register was now inconceivable. No, no, Mr Darling said: protected by biometrics, you see. This misses the point. The same sort of clerk might may quite as likely copy the whole register and send it off.

As Siô* Simon said, it's going to happen again; doesn't matter what government, it's human error. It must be the end of the identity register.