The Sketch: There's only one way to get your pound of flesh from the Opposition Whip

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The Independent Online

"I say, didn't you find Mr Speaker on good form!" In the sketch writers' study the clock struck four, a kettle boiled merrily over a roaring fire, and the Opposition Whip roasting in front of it hissed gently.

"I say, didn't you find Mr Speaker on good form!" In the sketch writers' study the clock struck four, a kettle boiled merrily over a roaring fire, and the Opposition Whip roasting in front of it hissed gently.

"Mr Speaker?" growled a sketch writer from one of the deeper armchairs; he was said to have more than five million readers. "What's Gorbals done now?"

"Oh, that's too bad," the young Sketch said pluckily, but flushing rather. "You shouldn't call Speaker Martin that. We must respect the office whatever we think of the officer."

"Twaddle," the older Sketch snapped. "Gorbals is useless. He made a statement saying he wanted shorter questions and shorter answers.

"He's said exactly the same thing before and everyone completely ignored him then, just like they'll completely ignore him now."

"But," the young Sketch stuttered, "he did say that he would interrupt people, and stop them, even ministers if they went on too long, 'in full flow', he said."

"And did he?"

"Well, no."

"Exactly. And that's enough pi-jaw from you. I'll call him Gorbals if I want. At least I never said he had a face all red and throbbing like an angry haemorrhoid."

"Well neither did I! That is, I don't remember doing that. And if I did I didn't mean it! And if I did mean it I didn't want to mean it. You fellows made me do it with your beastly cynicism and constant doing-down of better men than ourselves!"

"Oh, put a sock in it and pull me a leg off that Whip, will you? And don't hog the buttock. It's the only good bit."

A little glimpse behind the green baize door.

Kim Howells was making every effort not to talk the sort of rubbish, the sort of (in his phrase) "conceptual bullshit" that people in his position talk. It was quite beyond him.

"Tourists can spend their money anywhere in the world," he revealed to the House, "and they do so regularly."

What are we supposed to do with information like this?

He was also going to set up "an overarching benchmarking standard" to celebrate and pay tribute to the masterplan for Blackpool, "recognising the vital importance of seaside towns".

Oh yes, seaside towns. Of course we have to look after them. They're what stop roads going into the ocean. They're what stop the ocean going on to the roads.

Seaside towns are why the rest of the country isn't under a hundred feet of water, which is, presumably, why we have to pay for them to be modernised rather than them paying for it themselves.

Andrew Smith (arrgghh!) announced his new blueprint to help people on incapacity benefit back to work. Apparently one in five men over 50 are invalids. These and other malingerers are going to be invited to attend an intensive interview to get them back enjoying the so-called "therapeutic qualities" of work.

David Willetts pointed out from the department's own research that the policy has already been tested, and that just 3 per cent of people so contacted turn up for the interview.

If you don't turn up, research shows you are more likely to get a job. Ha ha! It doesn't take much to make a Sketch happy after all.

Simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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