The Sketch: They came to praise the treaty, not bury it

  • @SimonSketch

There's no scrutiny of the Lisbon Treaty at all. It's just not happening. It's a sham. The Prime Minister promised line-by-line examination (on William Hague's calculation they have time for 45 seconds per line) but, as was clear yesterday, the Government has no intention of allowing it.

The moral compass points north but doesn't stop you going west.

We rarely catch a glimpse of the treaty's text. But the purpose of these allotted days is to praise the treaty not to scrutinise it. And to get the Conservatives to foam at the mouth – something they are rather brilliantlydeclining to do.

John Gummer, loyal to party and principle, complained that the government tactics have denied a voice to those parliamentarians in favour of the treaty. And goodness knows, there is much to "tease out" as a committee stage might beenable to do.

Was the text really a "negotiating triumph" as that noodle Jacqui Smith told us? David Heathcoat-Amory pointed out that Britain had proposed 40 amendments and carried only two – one of which was to substitute "safety" with "security" (unless it was the other way round).

Dominic Grieve revealed to the Commons his vast legal brain. It throbbed visibly. There was much to misunderstand for those of us who don't instinctively know the difference between Third Pillar institutions and Intergovernmental arrangements. But it was clear that something large may or may not happen to our common lawtradition.

It does seem likely, or at least possible, that the continent's Roman law system will, in the fullness of time, take over in Britain. That's 800 years of characteristic English thinking out the window. They like Roman law in the EU, particularly the principle Princeps legibus solutus est (the sovereign, or in this case the Commission, is not bound by the laws).

Whether that happens or not, everyone (except Patricia Hewitt) agrees the way this is going through Parliament is very sub-optimal. The secrecy, the manoeuvring, the obfuscation, the tricksiness, they all combine to alienate and exclude voters, citizens and (yes) commentators from understanding what the hell is going on.

We only have a dim perception that it's more important and less obvious than the Government is saying.

They must be furious that Tories are able to say things that even Europhiles agree with. Serves them right.

PS: Harriet Harman's topical debate on Thursday is about Holocaust Day. So who's going to be speaking against that, then? What a shameful use of six million deaths, to allow the Leader of the House to parade her conscience "in government time".