The Sketch: Too much democracy to get anything done


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The Independent Online

What was that about being "the greenest government ever"? It was only true insofar as previous governments have been the colour of Tarmac.

That short Energy Secretary – the one with the face of a heart attack in waiting – made a succinctly self-defeating point. Because of Labour's lack of success, this Government was having to deliver the promised gains at twice the pace.

He didn't say the next government will have to deliver at twice the pace of this one in order to fail four times as heavily. Unless, as economics maestro Peter Bone suggested, the recession helps the targets out by suppressing economic activity to a stage last seen in the Holocene era.

Chris Huhne claimed: "We are completely committed to carbon capture." He says a lot of things but they don't remain operative statements forever. In this instance, his commitment to carbon capture took the form of cancelling a £1bn carbon capturing project in Fife. He assured the House the funds were still available, but if that billion doesn't end up in the back pockets of Greek bus drivers and Italian bin men I shall eat my bowler hat.

It's harder and harder to do anything in a democracy. We are the incapacitated ancien regime, tied up in our own self-defeating system of checks and balances.

They can't even deliver a backbench vote for an EU referendum without the earthly powers wading in to squash it. Mark Pritchard said the Tories were now whipping hard against the motion – they don't even want a vote on a vote. And so are the Lib-Dems – even though such a vote was actually in their manifesto.

Are MPs more afraid of their whips than of their constituents? I'd say they probably are – their constituents are further away.

James Clappison remembered a line from the past and wondered whether it might apply to the Tory back benches: "Being in the Conservative Party but not run by the Conservative Party." Sir George admitted his quote from "a Speakership election. Indeed both of them." But that was in the heat of an election and isn't an operative statement any more.