Simon Carr: So serious a Bill that even Gordon gets the call

Sketch: Pete Wishart asked that Liberals would guarantee not to take up seats in an unreformed Lords
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The Independent Online

Who was that on the bridge fighting off Lars Porsena and his hordes? He and two others holding off a thousand in those days "when none was for a party and all were for the state". That's what young Nick Clegg gave us yesterday – though he was short of two heroes to stand by him. He took numberless hostile interventions over half an hour before one of his gutless, heartless, spineless fellow Liberal Democrats rose to support him.

The House was loud, the mood rowdy as Clegg put it to them that what the country wanted was fewer MPs and a more powerful House of Lords. It was never going to beguile them. Hostile interventions were greeted with shouts of cruel approval.

Nicholas Soames, guardian of his ancestral flame, chastised Clegg for misappropriating Churchill's name in his campaign. Peter Lilley said he was arguing the upper house was working in practice but not in theory. And Pete Wishart provoked shouts of harsh laughter by asking that Liberals would guarantee not to take up seats in an unreformed Lords.

Malcolm Rifkind gave a blistering speech taking apart "this puny Bill". He cited this fatal flaw: greater democratic legitimacy of Lords equals loss of Commons primacy. It's dense but powerful.

Sadiq Khan for the Opposition put in one of the worst parliamentary performances since 1320. His high point was his beginning: "We are where we are," but it prompted furious heckles of, "Speak for yourself!" I shouldn't have had the second bottle.

Tim Farron itemised the devolutions and revolutions of Tony Blair and asked whether he, Khan, felt "comfortable being ranked as a pygmy" in comparison. "I don't understand his point," Khan said. Let me explain. He was saying You. Khan. Are. A. Pygmy.

The programme motion is being whipped very hard. I hear the halt, the lame, the sick, the fat all are being called in. Even Gordon Brown. Yes. That's how serious it is.