The Sketch: There's one rule. That's all I say, but I can hint

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The Independent Online

Apparently, so I'm told, there was a Conservative leadership launch yesterday morning. It was unusual even by the standards of modern Conservatism.

Apparently, so I'm told, there was a Conservative leadership launch yesterday morning. It was unusual even by the standards of modern Conservatism.

Very few journalists were invited and those who attended weren't allowed to report what was said. The meeting was held under what was called "Chatham House rules".

Here's a nice point for the pedants and obsessives who feature so strongly in the Sketch's readership: there is only one Chatham House rule. There isn't a second one.

The first and last rule of Chatham House is that no one who was there can repeat anything that was said. The theory is that this allows frankness. Speakers can air their views without the fear of disclosure. It's the best idea the Tories have yet come up with.

So what was said? I really couldn't say. But let me hint. Modern Conservatives must connect with the people. They must show they understand modern problems and can provide interesting and inventive solutions to them.

So why shouldn't fat children be required to hop to school on one leg? Corporal punishment is an ineffective discipline, but capital punishment is shown to reduce reoffending very significantly.

It follows then that teachers should be armed, in some education authorities, with rocket launchers. And people with freckles are often subject to discrimination: they will be zero-rated for VAT purposes. The Queen is to get a Royal Zeppelin. These are the things British voters are interested in.

But you have a question. Whose is the daring mind that has come up with these simple, popular, reach-out ideas? You go too far. Chatham House, you see, and its rule. But Malcolm Rifkind has a funny voice, don't you think? I sometimes wonder whether he's entirely English.

Scottish Questions yesterday failed to ventilate the most pressing Scottish question. What are all these Scots doing in our parliament? I suppose we deserve it, what with Bannockburn. And we behaved very badly at Culloden, by some accounts. But does that justify Bridget Prentice? By the end of question time we had paid the price in full. If not in blood at least in hot, despairing tears of anguished boredom.

New faces. Chris Bryant was sitting on the PPS bench. His foot is on the first rung. The ladder to power towers above him. Let us wish him well, he is a better performer, at least in Parliament, than two-thirds of the junior front bench.

Emily Thornberry, the new member from Islington, may yet make her mark. She is both loyal and sensible. We know this because she sends her children to a private day school very far from her front doorstep.

And James Gray was going to be a new face on the front bench but was sacked before his first question time. This may be a record.

Sacked "for telling the truth", he said. Let's hope it cures him of that offensive habit.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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