Matthew Norman on Monday: A very appropriate concession to the Lib Dem leader


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The Independent Online

With "isolated Little Britain" wartime analogies more inescapable than ever, thoughts turn to the observation of Sir Archibald Clark Kerr, our wartime ambassador to the USSR, who in April 1943 wrote to a Foreign Office friend that "in these dark days man tends to look for little shafts of light that spill from Heaven".

How true is this, and while Sir Archibald had the discovery that his new Turkish counterpart in Moscow was a certain Mustapha Kunt to cheer him up, we have Downing Street's celestial grasp of satirical timing to raise the spirits.

And so to the new Nick Clegg feature, The Quisling Quiz. Fingers on buzzers, please, here we go. Which two policy triumphs has David Cameron this particular moment to grant to Mr Clegg, left, apparently to help assuage Liberal Democrats unthrilled with recent developments in Brussels?" Anyone? No one? Well, these twin Cleggian coups concern a) forced marriage, and b) psychological domestic violence (criminalising those who bully and abuse partners without beating them up).

Far from helping Mr Clegg, of course, this double gift to cartoonists can only be designed to underscore that he is our best-known bullied prisoner of a forced marriage; and how he suffers appalling abuse from a partner who, having refused to take him to a wife-swapping party, rings from it at 4am screaming: "I've just obliterated your career, you slaaaag, so whatcha gonna do about that then?"

The answer is clear. Even now, someone is preparing the Vidkun Cleggling Suite at the Erin Pizzey Hostel for Abused Political Wives. We wish him a happy respite, and the very best of isolated British luck with whatever he decides to do with his life when he gets out.

Blunkett scores a Brooks bonus

Laureate of squealing self-pity that he is, David Blunkett rarely fails to whine about any unflattering reference. So I won't dwell on reports that he took a "substantial" payoff, arranged by his drinking chum Rebekah Brooks, to keep schtum about having his phone hacked; or wonder aloud whether some former socialist leaders of Sheffield Council might have preferred publicly challenging this questionable behaviour, John Prescott-fashion, to mute self-enrichment. But touch wood he invested the dosh wisely, rather than blew the lot (though not champagne which no more agrees with him than anyone in possession of their senses) at Annabel's.

In the nick of time ... and solitude

Blunkers and Rebekah memorably supped together a few hours before her then husband Ross Kemp, TV's Hardest Man, summoned police to their Battersea home over the sort of incident that may fall under Mr Clegg's new domestic law. We now learn that the then Sun editor, keen to avoid an odiously intrusive press, took advice from Bell Pottinger about which police station to attend. Who guessed you can pick your own nick? It's the consumer society gone mad.

Bell's rant at me rings hollow

Speaking of that lobbying firm, I am sent to bed with a fit of the vapours by an attack from its chairman Tim Bell, if he'll pardon the familiarity (Baron Bell-End, to borrow from Debrett's, if he won't). "He is a very unpleasant man," Tim told the London Evening Standard after a comment piece on his firm's questionable ethics, "he has some axe to grind against me." Few would dispute the first bit. But so far as the second, Tim's imagination fails him if he thinks anyone needs a personal animus to find him gruesome and his ennoblement baffling. Now do pipe down, Bell-End, and crack on with removing any reference to this scandal from the first page of a Bell Pottinger search on Google.

The Lady is for turning

Sad news from the The Lady. The feud between magazine's editor, Rachel Johnson, and its Lady Bracknell-ish owner, Julia Budworth, has ended with the latter handbagging the former into oblivion. Or as Boris's sister puts it, "I have promoted myself upstairs" into an editor-in-chief, sit-quietly-in-the-corner-until-your-notice-period-is-up role. I suppose this re-run of the 1990 World Cup final between Germany and Argentina – the tragedy being that there had to be a winner – had to end some time. But so soon?