The Sketch: Why doesn't the spirit of sleaze stick to Labour?

Click to follow
The Independent Online

At some level of the electorate's vast, various mind, Tories are still hated. Their sins have yet to be expiated. They are adhesive for all sorts of libels, sneers and cynicism. They are still, for instance, the party of sleaze. And yet looking at the Labour front bench - Prescott sitting next to Blair sitting next to Straw sitting next to Jowell (you can imagine the police parade continuing with Blunkett, Mandelson and Geoffrey Robinson) - and you can only wonder why the spirit of sleaze doesn't attach itself to this administration. The concept of corruption just doesn't stick. If anyone can give me a convincing tutorial in the dynamics of this phenomenon, I'll buy them lunch.

Prescott's flats and Jags and tax and almost subhuman incompetence; Straw's lizardly way with rendition flights; Jowell's shares and gifts and off-shore hedge funds, and Blair's feral defence of his actions in the face of the implosion in the Middle East. It's quite a line-up.

Peter Tapsell rose to disabling cheers and counter-cheers from all sides of the House. He said: "Now that the Prime Minister has used up all mortal excuses for his folly in invading Iraq, and is relying on divine guidance - a factor which was oddly omitted from the dodgy dossier - will he tell us which archangel is beckoning him towards southern Afghanistan?" As a rhetorical trope it was magnificent; two generations ago it would have taken a chunk out of the prime ministerial hide. Yesterday it merely tickled them all; the PM chucklingly replied by looking to the roof-trees of the House and calling for an answer.

Labour's Harry Cohen pointed out that the Ministry of the Interior in Baghdad is running death squads and is routinely torturing large numbers of people. But, you see, it's not tyrannical torture, it's democratic torture.

Trotsky was once asked to approve of "revolutionary violence", while condemning "reactionary violence". He said there was indeed a difference between the two concepts. It was the difference that existed between cat shit and dog shit.

PS: On to a ceremony launched by Tessa Jowell to celebrate International Women's Day. There was a song; new words had been written for "The Battle Hymn of the Republic". I'd write even newer words, but can't make "offshore hedge fund" scan and "multiply-refinanced mortgage" doesn't rhyme with anything. The new chorus (well beyond parody) was: "And the truth goes marching on."