The Sketch: The biggest issue we face, but what is it Prime Minister?

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The Independent Online

A photographer at the gates of the Palace of Westminster got very excited as I cycled through; she crouched and fired off half a dozen shots before calling at me to turn back to the camera. "Mr Davis!" she cried. "Mr Davis!" Oddly enough, I quite liked it. In spite of the fact that David Davis has a broken nose and is six inches shorter than I am, I found myself flattered.

Does this mean all my venomous commentary of the past five years is the result of mere jealousy? Or, worse, envy? Is my position squalid, fetid and morally incompetent? Ah well, never mind.

There are now two Tory MPs called David Davis and the new one was down to ask the Prime Minister a question. "David T C Davis" the Speaker called out, and the House went into rapture. A man with middle initials! Of such trifles are parliamentary careers made.

At school, we had epidemics of a fungal infection called TC. It used to infest our inner thighs. It will be very hard to prosper in the Conservative party with a name of an inner thigh infestation: things have changed, you see. In spite of it all though, I have to say that Not David Davis asked a question of such epic stupidity and uselessness that he may well be Andrew Lansley's PPS in a week's time.

By contrast Simon Burns asked a model question. It was brief: "Is the British rebate from the European Union negotiable?" The Prime Minister replied very firmly: "The rebate will remain. We will not negotiate it away. Period." In other words: "Yes. The rebate is negotiable." The cleverest questions don't get an answer from the Prime Minister but they can sometimes reveal the way he doesn't answer.

Responding to the Leader of the Opposition he offered this: "Pending clarification from France, there's no point in our having a referendum." Clarification, you wonder? What exactly is unclear? And the Government's defence is bewildering, when you look at it. To continue with our referendum to ratify the constitution somehow declares the constitution dead. And cancelling our referendum, as the Government has just done, keeps the constitution alive? Lewis Carroll would have enjoyed it in the gallery yesterday.

Finally: What's the PM referring to here? "Long term, it's the single biggest issue we face." International terrorism? Education? The challenge of Chinese productivity gains? Climate change? The spread of democracy to the Middle East? Renewable energy? Giant mutant hedgehogs capable of squashing cars? Yes, is the answer. All of the above. Especially those hedgehogs.

NB: The Speaker told Martin Salter to sit down. He'd asked three supplementaries. Mr Salter signalled with his fingers that he'd only asked two. I assume that's what he was signalling.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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