The Sketch: You can trust an MP - but only to be evasive

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The Independent Online

None of us know enough about Euro-negotiations. We're not interested enough. It's too hard to be interested enough. The language is impossible, the history is impenetrable and the guides unreliable. No wonder we have been so easily misled by our leaders at every stage of the great project.

It began with Edward Heath's instruction, revealed under the 30-year rule, when he decreed that the public should, on no account, be told that the Common Market was a political project; it was to be referred to only as an economic arrangement.

On that profoundly unreliable foundation - and right under the noses of a Euro-sceptic nation - the political class built a pan-European structure that massively increased the power, reach, and pension rights of its class members. It was an astounding victory.

So Tony Blair comes to the Commons to urge the European constitution on us, to fight terrorism better. The EU is going to be overhauled with "a completely different system for the day-to-day running". Simpler laws are going to be passed. Europe is going to maintain its competitive edge. And I'm the Duchess of York.

Michael Howard laid out some of the Prime Minister's flips so he could question the flops. Mr Blair used to insist that making the EU into a distinct legal entity posed a danger and that his Government had insisted the constitutional clause be removed. Why had he changed his mind?

It was all "absolute rubbish" according to Mr Blair. It comes down to "this huge stuff about trust", as the Prime Minister's adviser called it in his diary. Yes, trust. Mr Howard ended by calling for a referendum: "The Prime Minister says trust him; we say trust the British people," said Mr Howard

In a democratic oligarchy where 80 per cent of people didn't vote for their Prime Minister and 90 per cent of people didn't vote for their MEP, a referendum is the least likely outcome.

On the subject of trust, we are enjoying what we hope will become a long-running comedy starring Beverley Hughes, the Immigration minister.

She told the House she had no idea of a rubber-stamp policy for clearing the backlog of immigration applications. It "grieved" her such a policy had been developed by rogue underlings. She said things such as: "I have not yet established who authorised the publication and distribution of the guidance". Her most entertaining line was: "We have not given any evasive answers."

Now a leaked memo shows she personally authorised an "enhanced procedure" to clear "large numbers" of applications, a procedure that to layman's eyes is identical to rubber-stamping. You'd think she'd be cut in half by these revelations. But worms get cut in half and their life expectancy doubles. So it is with our leading politicians. We can trust them for that.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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