The Sketch: Simon Carr

At last - a devolved Afghanistan offers the perfect job for Alun Michael
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The Independent Online

The Prime Minister delivered to the Welsh Assembly a speech that has been in the papers for the past two days. His purpose was to stiffen our sinews in the war against terrorism. The ethnic Assembly's simultaneous translation machine wasn't working. The Sketch steps into the breach once more (why's it always my job?).

"Devolution is about harnessing the power of community – the diverse community that is the United Kingdom, and the national communities that through devolution can take their future into their own hands." (This means its opposite. Cf the later assertion: "Separation of the component parts of the UK is a cul-de-sac. It would just make each part weaker.")

"No one who raises doubts is an appeaser or a faint heart." (Some people who raise doubts are appeasers and faint hearts. I will not be criticised for attempts to silence mad, probably gay, faint-hearted appeasers on my backbench.)

"Our objectives are clear: to close down the al-Qa'ida network." (When we bomb Iraq to close down al-Qa'ida cells, please don't pretend to be surprised.) "We have destroyed the Taliban air force, put Taliban airfields and air defence systems out of action, destroyed all the main al-Qa'ida camps and dramatically reduced their capacity to communicate with their forces in the field." (We've achieved virtually nothing so far.) "This is not a conventional conflict. It is a battle to allow Afghans themselves to re-take control of their country." (Unless they want to be Islamic fundamentalists and vote for shariah law in which case we shall impose our own government led perhaps by Alun Michael who's been looking for something to do since I failed to impose him on you, the Welsh Assembly.) "We are establishing a huge humanitarian effort – $700m already pledged." (But not banked. Not even collected. Yes, it works out at 30 cents a day per refugee, but the cost of living is much lower in Afghanistan. The cost of dying scarcely registers.)

"We will soon see 200 new hi-tech jobs at the £90m BT plant, new investment this Assembly helped to create." (Suck that, Taliban.) "Pensioners and people with disabilities now enjoy concessionary bus passes." (As will happen in Kabul when we have applied the principles of Welsh devolution to the governments of central Asia.)

"The fuel crisis, last year's flooding, Corus, and foot-and-mouth. That is a credit to the Assembly – and to your leadership and commitment as First Minister, Rhodri." (Whom I desperately tried to keep out of office.) "11 September is no less appalling today than it was on 11 September." (Doesn't mean anything.) "We are a principled nation." (A quality we share with the Taliban.) "If we do not act ... we will have done nothing." (Call me naïve: that may mean what it says.)

Back in Westminster, the Speaker was apologising for his statement that "some observers criticised as a political statement". From the chair, he had warmly welcomed the Home Secretary's asylum U-turn. No. That wasn't a political statement. And one of his asylum-seeking constituents had been killed. "I seek the indulgence of the House." The Harriet Harman award for the Most Odious Use of Grief must now be retired. It has a holder in perpetuity.

Simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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