The Sketch: The Prime Minister is always right, even when his policies are wrong

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The Independent Online

The nature of the pact made by our nice young Prime Minister (with a senior sponsor in another place) is becoming clear. In these tales there is often a barmy condition attached to the supernatural sponsorship, like not looking back, or not allowing a foot to touch the ground. The PM has his own special provision. He is allowed to stay where he is as long as he doesn't ever give any indication that he might ever have been responsible for anything that has ever gone wrong. This condition goes back to about 1830 (he did apologise for the slave trade).

In most fairy tales, the condition is eventually broken and the hero is destroyed. In other stories, the hero abides by the terms but is destroyed anyway as the condition becomes too onerous to bear. And that is what we may be seeing now. Because the PM can never say, "You're right; it's my fault", or even think about how he might start trying to think about doing that; he has to reconstruct reality to fit his account of himself, based on his own rectitude.

That way madness lies.

Look at yesterday's performance, as he leant over the despatch box in an agitated, let-me-at-him way. Confronted with the consequences of his own legislation, he was positively carnivorous; he'll be forced to wear one of those Hannibal Lecter masks for PMQs if this goes on.

Cameron laid out the story of the man who was recently convicted of a horrible crime; he got an 18-year sentence but - by the protocols of the sentencing process - he is eligible for release in six years. The Prime Minister cried: "Absolute rubbish!" That was unexpected. The facts aren't in question. And the Government did pass the various acts that made it all possible. Absolute rubbish? Sensing that the facts were against him, the Prime Minister gnashed his teeth noisily and prepared to spring four-footedly over the despatch boxes to eat Cameron's heart in front of us. That would be preferable to saying: "You're right. It's our fault." I have to say, that Cameron didn't actually win. He wasn't eaten alive, but he failed to win. He's not doing to Blair what Blair did to Major. At all.

Cameron's also reverting to the Punch and Judy plan. Attacking the Government for health lay-offs is very short-sighted. It just allows Labour to cheer (which, by God, they do). A far more damaging approach would be to note approvingly that 15 per cent of the NHS is now contracted out and to ask what the upper level of private involvement is, in the PM's view.

PS: John Prescott confounded his hairy, feminist critics by getting through the entire session without ramming his head up the foreign secretary's dress. Well done, John! They said you couldn't do it, mate!