The Sketch: Textual celebration of aspiring politician's empty statement

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The Independent Online

Productivity is a swine to measure. The Tories say its growth has halved under Labour. Ministers say it has improved recently. The Government says we need a new way of measuring it. Perhaps they've found a new way of measuring it, which is why it has recently improved.

Productivity is a swine to measure. The Tories say its growth has halved under Labour. Ministers say it has improved recently. The Government says we need a new way of measuring it. Perhaps they've found a new way of measuring it, which is why it has recently improved.

One measure must be how efficient ministers are with their material, how good they are at filling all the available space with the minimum of resources. In this matter we must pay tribute to the Department of Trade and Industry in general, and Jacqui Smith in particular.

Apparently there's a new government body being formed to combat all discrimination - race, gender, religion, belief, age and "new strands of sexual orientation".

Harry Barnes, the Labour MP for North East Derbyshire, asked a question. What lessons have we learnt from trying out the new unit in Northern Ireland? Ms Smith's reply consists of 132 words and is entirely without content; it is an object lesson for aspiring politicians and deserves full textual celebration.

As Mr Barnes sat down, she said: "Well 1, my honourable friend is right 2, we need to learn not only from Northern Ireland 3, but more broadly 4, there were particular circumstances in Northern Ireland 5 that necessitated the sort of approach that they took 6, but part of the reason for the consultation process 7, and in fact part of the reason we've engaged in up to the publication of the White Paper which brought together a task force of stakeholders from business and the various different equality groups to consider how best to set up the commission 8 was in order to ensure that we learnt the best lessons 9; that we took the best from existing arrangements 10 but that we come out the end more effective than we are at the moment 11 for embedding equality and diversity and tackling discrimination where it exists 12."

1. Oh dear, how can I wring an answer out of this?

2. My honourable friend is wrong.

3. I'm not going to say what we learnt from Northern Ireland.

4. This is the opposite of the question asked.

5. There are particular circumstances everywhere.

6. It's the same approach we're taking; are Northern Ireland's circumstances the same as the rest of Britain's?

7. Hang on for what that reason is for a full third of the answer.

8. Forty-three words of waste product.

9. Two-thirds of the way through the answer she has managed to restate the premise of the question.

10. But I'm not going to tell you what they are.

11. In ways that I needn't go into.

12. Can I sit down now? Yes, I think I can.

Simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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