The Sketch: The MPs filed in and sat, like tricoteuses, to hear the arguments for war

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The Independent Online

The old question takes on a new urgency. Can we believe a word the Government says? Ministers have crimped, twisted and tortured the data, the statistics, the facts ever since they achieved office. They've lied about everything.

The old question takes on a new urgency. Can we believe a word the Government says? Ministers have crimped, twisted and tortured the data, the statistics, the facts ever since they achieved office. They've lied about everything.

Bernie Ecclestone, Lakshmi Mittal, mortgage applications, waiting lists, the tax burden, fox-hunting, the resignation of Martin Sixsmith, literacy improvements in 10-year-olds, crime, asylum, train timetables, their favourite books and what they had for breakfast. It is inconceivable that they are telling the truth now. Why would they start doing that so suddenly? If al-Q'aida were to blow up a plane at Heathrow it would be the most random, bacon-saving coincidence.

Labour's most posterior back bench got in early for PMQs yesterday and sat up there packed in like a row of tricoteuses. Tony Lloyd asked the Prime Minister why we should believe that war now would make peace more likely.

Lindsay Hoyle asked in vain for an assurance that Tony Blair would publicly support the weapons inspectors' request for more time. And someone whose name escapes me said: "Does he have a message for the people on the anti-war rally – bearing in mind they are his friends not his enemies?" This insolence is new.

Stephen Pound noted the "sobering effect" the security arrangements around Heathrow have had. There was some hidden meaning in what he said. He asked the Prime Minister for reassurance. Mr Blair gave none, and avoided saying anything at all about Heathrow. He talked instead about security threats right across the world, not just in this country, in many countries right across the globe, and it meant, sometimes, that we had to take measures we'd rather not. That sounded so uncertain, so evasive, so rubbishy that it suddenly looked as though he had sent the troops to Heathrow airport as a theatrical device to support a course to war.

Among opposition parties, Jonathan Sayeed asked whether there was a new, proven, imminent threat that would justify war? The question was more useful than the answer. Alex Salmond pointed out the linguistic discrepancies in what we know as the "dodgy dossier". He observed that ordinary Iraqis in the source material had been turned into "spies" in the No 10 version. The only reason for this could have been to serve up propaganda for war, he said, and then he too asked the penetrating question: "If he can't be trusted on that, how can he be trusted on anything else?" Untrustworthiness has finally attached itself to the Government in the same way that sleaze attached itself to the Tories. This will make a difference, perhaps the difference, to the rest of its term.

Points of order brought Oliver Letwin to the dispatch box. He referred to Charles Clarke's warning in the media that the danger level of a terrorist attack was now higher than it had been before 9/11.

A parliamentary discussion of the matter would ask, and possibly even answer the question: if the claim were true why would it be left to Mr Clarke to make it? Glenda Jackson startled us with the least ambiguous statement of the parliamentary term. "I am very proud of my party," she told the Speaker. "It is my government of which I am ashamed."

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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