The Sketch: The truth is out there, just don't expect help finding it

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The Independent Online

The prime ministerial technique with the truth is gaining currency. Lip readers tell us that the Italian footballer Materazzi called Zidane a "son of a terrorist whore", thus precipitating the assault. When asked if this was the case, Materazzi said it was "absolutely untrue" that he'd called Zidane a terrorist. The prime minister would have been proud.

We just don't believe any more. Politicians say things as clearly as they know how, but we sniff around looking for the ambiguity, the elision, the barely discernible provision that turns their proposition upside down when it is emphasised.

Alistair Darling said private interests building nuclear power stations would pay for 100 per cent of the building, operating, maintaining and decommissioning of the plant. There would be no subsidies.

Ed Davey repeated a question from last week's DTI questions: Could the minister name a single nuclear project anywhere that had been brought in on time, on budget and without subsidy? The answer was long and sedative but amounted to "no". David Chaytor noted the review said private companies would have to pay "their full share" of waste disposal. Did "full share" mean "100 per cent"? Darling said he would have thought that was "self-evident". What does that mean? Don't the consumers have some responsibility? If we had a benefit of consumption shouldn't we share in the consequences? (I'm just rehearsing an argument for the minister, whoever he is when the time comes, to volte-face).

Jeremy Corbyn barely rephrased the general question. Could the minister assure the House there would be no subsidy whatsoever? The minister was getting testy. Or more accurately, testicular. He felt people were accusing him of talking a lot of balls. "I don't want to labour the point," he said, refusing to answer the question any more, as it continued to be asked from all sides. "I refer to my previous answer," he echoed himself. But then, he was speaking to us from inside the credibility gap, no wonder it echoed.

It became quite an interesting point. Exactly how are they going to provide public support for an uneconomic private industry? Michael Connarty came up with the solution: "Will the carbon price be set in such a way that potential investors will be adequately rewarded?"

There it is! I'd underlined a note some minutes before: "There has to be a long term carbon price," the minister had said (it's for the emissions trading system). The idea of a long term price set by politicians is so false, so fraudulent, so bottomlessly dishonest that it justifies on its own the automatic scepticism with which all sides of the House treated the minister yesterday.

sketch@simoncarr.co.uk

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