Alex Massie

Let us now praise Simon Hoggart

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Simon Hoggart remains a treasure. His sketch in today's Guardian begins thus:

It's going to be an awful campaign, awful. Yesterday we were at Labour HQ (they still have a smart new building in Westminster, but after the election they may move to a scout hut in Streatham) to see a video.

It was introduced by the home secretary and by Harriet Harman, glossier than ever. Her eyes were like French-polished lentils. I spoke to colleagues afterwards, and we agreed that she seemed to be staring balefully at each of us. Like a very cross Mona Lisa, her eyes follow you round the room.

Alan Johnson has been buried deep in the Home Office for months now. Few politicians ever emerge from that Bastille oubliette, and if they do get out, they gibber about wanting to live naked in the woods, eat wild fungi, and weave baskets from osiers.

But Mr Johnson looked perky – and even shinier than Ms Harman. He had shiny white hair, a shiny grey suit and a shiny silver tie. He looked like the host at an ice-dancing contest.

They wanted us to look again at Tory policy on crime. This is because Labour is repositioning itself as the hanging and flogging party, whereas the Tories are a bunch of bleeding-heart, Guardian-reading milquetoasts.

Even the bad news is good. Number of women reporting sexual assault and violent crime up? That's because they have confidence in the system! The more crime comes to light, the better things are!

Mr Johnson ran through a list of the Tories' crimes against crime prevention. "We want people to take a long, hard look at their policies, and now we're going to take a long, hard look at this film, which is entitled A Long Hard Look."

It was ghastly. The US Republicans could hardly make something as stupid and unfair.

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A newspaper curiosity: there are no proper - by British standards anyway - sketch-writers in Washington. (Dana Milbank's "sketch" for the Washington Post is a slightly different creature.) But if ever there was a beast crying out for a Hoggart or a Matthew Parris or a Frank Johnson to lampoon its follies and puncture its pretensions it is surely the United States Congress. A rum failure of the American press to be sure. Even Politico, the most British of the DC papers, doesn't have a proper sketch. Too much fun, perhaps...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.