Simon Carr:

The Sketch: Slippery open-mouthed groans

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I've been all over the Palace of Westminster looking for a £10-porn story for you. But having ended up at the Treasury statement (another bust building society) I can only leave you with the raw materials for a sketch of sufficient filthiness for the Home Secretary's second home.

Bendy, twisty, slippery, moaning, thick-fingered, upsidedown, open-mouthed, sharp fierce cries and Alistair Darling. Did it work for you?

Where were we? Serious times, serious people. But what's Angela Eagle doing there, then?

The Chancellor came to the House to tell us we were up for another £1.6bn to salvage bits of (in the words of the constituency MP) "such a fine Scottish institution". These words caused Treasury officials in the press gallery to cackle.

We heard a familiar story. A once-respectable building society had been taken over by medallion men and the place was turned into a brothel. Vince Cable mentioned one of the loans they'd made: £10m to an insolvent company that had never filed any accounts.

We've run out of indignation, I fear. As Michael Fallon observed: "It no longer seems extraordinary." George Osborne made the point that these toxic results weren't blow-ins from the US. They were British loans for British houses in the British self-certified, British buy-to-let sector. In his turn, the Chancellor repeated three times that the mortgages had been bought by "a subsidiary of Lehman's". That is: "Not our fault."

More regulation, everyone says, and you can see why. But as a number of MPs pointed out, the FSA has done nothing in the past decade except lie back and let the industry do to it things even Jacqui Smith's husband wouldn't pay to watch.

Insofar as Darling allows any inflection in his drone, he uttered a note of bafflement. "What was the management doing?" And he sounded for all the world as though it was nothing to do with him.

The Treasury, it should be explained, is the third part of the "tripartite regulatory architecture". This was designed by Gordon Brown so that, in a crisis, the public wouldn't know who to blame. It's the only thing about the structure that works. Everybody wanted to know when Darling would be back reporting on another bust bank. He didn't know. And he doesn't want to know. The transparency they say they want would bring the entire system down in a month.

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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