The Sketch: The unreportable truth about Tessa

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The Independent Online

It always happens at this time of year. The last week before Christmas, St Lucy's just gone, the days still getting shorter, and John Donne ringing in our ears. "I am every dead thing," he says, and it's easy to see what he means as ministers for Culture turn scum into sludge - "the whole world's sap is sunke".

David Lammy would give Joan Ryan a run for her money to become Parliament's least effective junior minister. But he needs a larger stage on which to display his inabilities - Joan has the whole EU policy on a joint Criminal Justice system; Lammy had a few measly churches and the slavery celebrations.

Want to know what must be done? Really? According to Lammy, we must "redouble our efforts". In any particular direction? Not really, no.

Tessa is now unreportable in any parliamentary sense. You start to take down what she says and you wake up a few moments later. You stare at your notes, there is nothing there: and then you realise it couldn't be better expressed.

She told us that she is bearing down on costs for the Olympics. Maybe if she bore down less energetically they wouldn't go up so quickly. She's got away with blowing the budget by paying some group of fat-bonus, black-suited bean counters £400m to keep within it. There was some gentle mockery then. But there was hardly mention of it yesterday, except from the gloomy Vince Cable.

And even when she said: "Michael Grade is a complete **** and I hope he ***** on his fat *****!" it hardly caused a ripple, she put it in such an inconspicuous way: "My thanks to Michael Grade and my appreciation of him", etcetera and thump, thump, thump, as heads bounced off desks.

No, it was obvious what she meant, if you could keep yourself conscious.

Of course, there is Shaun Woodward on the Culture front bench. Everyone says what a toad he is. Though a minority says quite hurtful things about him too.

Not ever had anything to do with him, I can't understand why he isn't the minister and Tessa doesn't go into the same affirmative action programme that put David Lammy in place.

I wish I could end on a high note, but Margaret Beckett did the EU summit statement, robbing it of any residual drama it might have had (the Prime Minister is away taking peace to the Middle East). Everything went pretty well, considering, she told the House, plunging us deeper into seasonal depression.

"Let mee call this houre her vigil" because it really is "the day's deep midnight", isn't it?

PS: Andrew Mackinlay pointed out that if Turkey joins the EU, we will have a common border with Iraq. Not to mention Iran. That bears thinking about in the Home Office, I'd have thought.