The Sketch: Welsh Nats strike again with the accuracy of MI5 assassins

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The Independent Online

At last, a use for Question Time! Nothing of use is intentionally said by ministers in their answers, and usually there's nothing in the questions that you haven't read in the newspapers. But yesterday Elfyn Llwyd made such a scandal it woke me up. I stirred from deep contemplation on hearing Geoff Hoon striving for wounded dignity (and missing, obviously): "I'm sorry the honourable gentleman has chosen to make the point in the way he has," he said. Then the Speaker was remonstrating with the Welsh Nationalist. Had Llwyd let the hon member know he was going to be named in the House? "At five to 11 this morning," Mr Llwyd said crisply. Not enough notice, the Speaker ruled, uncertainly.

"What, woss 'e said?" your correspondent asked blearily. "Woss going on, Brendan?"

"Llwyd's just said Peter Hain offered Peter Law a peerage on the direct authority of the Prime Minister if he - Law - wouldn't stand in the last election." And then he made some unkind comparisons between news gatherers and sketch writers which needn't detain us.

PM in (another) peerage scandal! This is the sort of thing you can say in the Commons in a way you can't say outside, not without getting sued. Mr Llwyd's Welsh Nationalist colleague Adam Price brought the Mittal affair out into the open like this. And I seem to remember Simon Thomas did the same with some other scandal, now forgotten. They're a small party, these Welsh Nats, but they're deadly. They look like bank clerks, but so do MI5-trained assassins.

Old Geoff took further umbrage, saying the point should have been made face-to-face during Welsh questions. This was a poor response. The order paper didn't have a question that would have allowed such a point without the Speaker ruling it out of order.

The claim was first made by Peter Law's widow on TV, but the programme was pulled for legal reasons (the Government calling her a liar - which she objects to).

Hain himself is out there calling Llwyd not just a liar but a coward. "An act of cowardice when Elfyn Llwyd had the opportunity to put this lie directly to me in the House" (untrue, see above). This is foolish, anyway. Llwyd is one of those characters who relishes a ruckus. Hain is seeking the victim role, and displaying his own wounded dignity like a leper flaunting his sores for sympathy.

I would be amazed if the PM hadn't caused a peerage to be offered. It's been the ordinary way of doing things for years.

NB: Charles Clarke has called the débâcle at the Home Office "unedifying". Hang on: I thought the Government were "learning lessons" from it? In other words, the débâcle ought to be "extremely edifying". But I fear Chuckles was right; it will almost certainly turn out to be entirely unedifying.

Simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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