The Sketch: This was the apple pie and cinnamon defence

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The Independent Online

Blair not being there was quite handy in the event; in the absence of his messianic mania, the Government's case looks quite as threadbare as cynics and pessimists could desire. Building a safe, just and prosperous world for all. Margaret Beckett kicked off on Iraq with one of Labour's apple-pie statements, dashed with cinnamon.

Who can be against safety, justice and prosperity for all? Let's do what we can. She seems to be aware of the scale of the task. Bringing democracy to Iraq which has "no tradition of democracy" for instance. It's like putting a missile in downtown Baghdad and saying: "Right, now construct an aerospace industry." She is also "committed to" and "determined to" bring about "national reconciliation". She is going to establish "non-sectarianism" in Iraq; our "experience in Northern Ireland will help". Why is she saying this? Apart from being the Foreign Secretary? This is the ineluctable result of Tony Blair's totalitarian rhetoric from his early party conferences. His values weren't just Labour values, remember, nor Western, they were "universal human values". The carnage has been fabulous.

Did you know that 92 per cent of people in Iraq feel more secure in their lives? That 75 per cent of Iraqis believe their police will improve this coming year? That 67 per cent believe Iraq has a professional police force? "Not leaving bruises" being one key indicator of professionalism? Did you know that the Margaret Beckett figure for the civilian dead is 12,500? She quotes it even though she got it from the Iraqi government.

Harry Cohen remonstrated, saying that even the Iraqi minister of health put civilian deaths at 150,000. She said: "It is natural for people to use the figure with which they have the greatest sympathy". (Pause to evacuate stomach.) Mike Gapes, chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee made progress in anti-Bushery; but maybe he's just sucking up to Gordon Brown. He confessed they'd all underestimated the way Saddam had conducted the "complete removal for any respect" for different groups in Iraq. He left us with the warning that all hell might be about to break loose. Maybe the assassination of a Muslim archduke sort of person will really kick things off.

William Hague left us with no particular impression beyond wanting more friends in the region. His was the international version of hug-a-hoodie.

Ming gnashed his gums but once in his stride made a pretty good fist of an unpopular proposition - of setting a deadline to get out by 1 October.

Of course, when we leave, we will have installed a democratic government of national reconciliation which will have a mandate to torture, kidnap and execute dissidents.

Will Mike Gapes be proven right, that Islam in the Middle East is on the brink of a vast sectarian conflict? And is that a good thing for us? Would we secretly like that? Like we secretly liked the Iran-Iraq war? Or do we actually, truly want peace and prosperity for all?