The Sketch: There's a new order – and Harriet will run it

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The Independent Online

The swan will not fly. The sunfish will not swim. Harriet Harman will not run for Labour leader. The natural world is running on new rules. Maybe it's global warming.

Harriet's decision has been put so assertively I believed it for a moment and put £100 on Yvette Cooper at 33-1. But as the earliest promoter of the idea that Harriet will run and will win if she does, the Sketch can't let it go. It's my bone and I'll chew if I want to. If she was planning for it she'd be doing what she's doing now. Going into the Commons and telling her party that Gordon Brown is a menagerie of disappointment. He is an ass. He is a toady to public opinion. He is doglike in that he cowers before voters. Snaky and bull-headed, yet rat-like.

Those weren't exactly her exact words. What she said was that in the matter of these expenses claims and cash calls, Legg had to make his judgement "by the rules of the time". That was his brief and that was the only fair way of doing it.

And she didn't let it slip out. It wasn't a mis-speaking. She made the point three or four times. "Obviously we have to judge by the rules of the time. Anything else would be arbitrary."

How's she going to "clarify" that? Here's the only clarification that matters: "Vote for me!" No one else has dared say this in Parliament. And she'll be remembered for it. Let's hope the voters in her constituency forget, however.

Business questions was followed a blistering point of order by Liam Fox. The release of a report into the Ministry of Defence had been delayed until an hour before the debate on the matter. He said it was "296 pages of non-stop damning criticism" and that releasing it like this was a "despicable and cowardly act". The Speaker allowed it.

Bob Ainsworth (the only step on the staircase lower than his predecessor Des Browne) said that the report hadn't previously been completed. But then, a blister on the blister, this was flatly contradicted by James Arbuthnot, chair of the select committee. He'd read the draft in July and he'd skimmed the final version in the previous hour and the difference was "a few words".

The last of Poor Bob's prestige has gone, I fear. He's in charge of a war and can't defend himself against "despicable cowardice".

Paul Flynn asked about this statistic that sounds so fraudulent. Three-quarters of all terror plots in Britain have their origins in the Afpak border. Right, Flynn said. How many terror plots is that, exactly? Ainsworth flustered and frothered and ended up saying that it was "a well-known fact".

We don't have firing squads now but maybe he'll be fired. The others would be encouraged.

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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