The Sketch: We all opt in, we all opt out, we do the hokey-cokey and all fall out

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The Independent Online

Mr Blunkett came to the House to answer an Urgent Question on European Asylum arrangements. It seemed to be more to do with the "hokey-cokey".

"Without the opt-in which allows us to opt out we couldn't opt in, not out," he said, none of us knew why. He had been accused by David Davis of employing the politics of confusion. Not to be outdone, Mr Davis was employing the politics of gabbling bafflement. We clutched our heads. We tore our hair. We employed every physical cliché available to help us understand but it was no use; we had absolutely no idea what the Dickens was going on.

Mr Blunkett said nothing had happened and, even if it had happened, it was benign and, if it wasn't benign, it wasn't true. Mr Davis said we were able to opt in to Amsterdam at two points, one with a vote and one three months before the end without. Mr Blunkett had tried to remove the QMV clauses but failed and so the Government rolled over in order to present it all as a fait accompli before the referendum on the European constitution. It may have been a form of concrete poetry that you stumble across at times in the House of Commons. It's not meant to mean anything in particular.

Mr Blunkett replied that we couldn't move geographically next to Estonia. This sort of talk smacks of defeatism. Has New Labour's blue sky thinking really so thoroughly exhausted? The Home Secretary went on to clear up the confusion with a little obfuscation. He claimed that a previous Tory prime minister had opened the Channel tunnel, that we were at the end of the road and that Mrs Thatcher didn't believe in Fantasy Island. It defies analysis, I really wouldn't try.

He went on to mislead Parliament with the assertion that the current arrangements "predate the Treaty of Amsterdam, even a child learning in school knows that." Really? Only very odd children in school know that, and they daren't display their knowledge for fear of having their tongue nailed to the blackboard by the class clown.

Mr Davis' argument was lost even on his own side. They only came to life when they heard the words, "helpless and pathetic government" at which point they began to bay absent-mindedly.

Mark Oaten for the Liberal Democrats was clear, concise and made a good point. There! I've said something nice about a Liberal Democrat! Now I want a peerage. He suggested that the EU requirement for biometric passports would put in place all the infrastructure for a national ID card system and that the margin of error for same was a whopping 10 per cent. I'm not sure if I believe that, but I know I want to. The Home Secretary replied but, naturally, didn't answer.

Both Davis and Blunkett have been treated as leadership contenders in their time. It's hard to believe. They can't even defeat each other, let alone their Goliaths.