The Sketch: Wounded doe survives with appeal for most vulnerable

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"Everyone likes Tessa." I'm just trying the sentence out, to see if I believe it. "Everyone feels they ought to like Tessa." That's a little more convincing. I feel I ought to like her.

And she looked pretty good, considering her troubles at home. Has she separated for political reasons (that is "beneath contempt" say some), or is she crushed by the agony of betrayal? It's unknowable. But try this thought experiment: If Tessa could ensure her political survival by not separating from her husband, would they still be together?

At any rate, it was a very full house for Culture questions. She was surrounded by a praetorian guard of Parliament's kissiest (Hewitt, Hodge, Hughes, Kelly, Blears, Bradshaw). And more important (but very much less kissy) Keith "The Teeth" Hill, the PM's parliamentary secretary, was in, presumably to report on Tessa's performance. He'll be able to say to the PM: "She spoke like a 14-year-old girl." And the PM will say: "She must be on terrific form!"

Never has a wounded doe looked so appealing. Not a single bite was taken out of her, no bared teeth, not even any snarling. But oh, how she tests your patience.

She gave us a New Labour turn about the elderly and the disabled and her determination to protect the "most at risk" from (wait for it) not having a new television. "The most vulnerable will not be left out of a digital society," she told the House. It was a "values statement" (count the spoons).

I wouldn't trust her with the petty cash. Not because she's dishonest, but because she does what she's told by alpha males. Remember, she was the frontwoman for the Ecclestone affair; she cheerfully changed her tobacco advertising Bill (happy to ignore "the most vulnerable", "the most at-risk") in return for a million quid.

Her department, said David Heathcote-Amory, "has plundered the Lottery Fund in defiance of its founding principle". The principle was that Lottery funds would never be used for services the government ought to be providing but be "additional" to them. Now, two-thirds goes to health and education. The minister (Richard Caborn, auditioning with his most vigorous performance yet) says all is well as the funds are "in addition to government expenditure".

They did this with the National Insurance fund. It was set up to pay pensions - Churchill raided it to build roads. They can't keep their hands out of the pot. Whatever difficulties with whatever millions Ms Jowell's husband is in - they are dwarfed by the billions her department is plundering.

Later, outside the chamber, a ministerial aide explained that his boss hadn't actually read the mortgage document she'd signed. "It's a very long document," he said. "Have you read yours?" No, I haven't actually. But I've read the figure in the box.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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