Suddenly he struck back. Could this be a new-look, kick-ass Nick Clegg in the making? As usual, the Deputy Prime Minister was attacked from both sides. It's hard to say who he annoys more – the Labour MPs who feel so betrayed, or the Tory backbenchers unable to come to terms with the burden of sharing power with the Liberal Democrats.
Yesterday, the Tories needled him over his refusal to allow new boundary changes to take effect before 2015. A high-minded Bernard Jenkin even expressed shock that a politician should act out of narrow party interests, touchingly implying that Conservatives know only the path of principle. With mind-numbing repetitiveness, Clegg explained that if the Tories could break their coalition deal on Lords reform, so could he on the boundaries.
But then he was asked about the latest wheeze from Tory chairman Grant Shapps, now as well-known by his money-making alias, Michael Green. "I've already read reports that the chairman of the Conservative Party wishes to strike a deal with us on boundaries in return for a party-funding deal," he said. "Finally that's a get-rich-quick scheme he is prepared to put his name to." Hasta la vista, Grant, baby. Or as they might say in Goodfellas, "Forget about it".
Otherwise questions to Clegg lurched crazily across subjects from economic priorities to the new law of primogeniture.
Mainly the Government's day, then, since both Attorney General Dominic Grieve and Home Secretary Theresa May had the rare satisfaction of making statements which genuinely pleased both sides of the Commons: the first that he was applying for new inquests for the Hillsborough victims, and the second that she was blocking the extradition of Gary McKinnon.
Such, indeed, was the near-unanimous relief on the McKinnon decision that you couldn't help admiring the lonely doggedness, if nothing else, of her Labour predecessor Alan Johnson in attacking it. Not so Dennis Skinner. Gracefully thanking McKinnon's mother for all "that Bolsover fighting spirit" she had shown in the campaign to keep her son in Britain, he added: "Without the extra-parliamentary activity of my constituent Janis Sharp, I doubt whether this decision could have been made."
When Skinner was using that term "extra-parliamentary activity" a generation or two ago, it conjured rather different images – like that of the NUM toppling governments. Who says the old "dinosaur", as David Cameron so unwisely called him, hasn't adapted?Reuse content