The Sketch: Harriet sent packing as Clegg rises to occasion

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The Independent Online

PMQs – now with 20 per cent extra. It started on time and the Speaker eventually called off the half-hour at 12.37. Every time Nick Clegg thought he'd done the course, another name was called: the finish line receding with every step he took.

It's a record of some sort, and the Speaker being as he is, you assume there's a reason for overrunning – probably something to do with his loathing of Tories. Clegg being in an unnatural relationship with them would be accounted a particularly scaly beast. In the event, he did well in a stormy House against a lackluster Harriet Harman. She was haranguing him about the Health Bill (obviously) and he was belting it back in an impromptu display of rhetorical aggression. Her good line had been prepared earlier: "The only thing he stands up for is when the Prime Minister walks in the room"; it was rebutted by an entirely unconnected line also prepared earlier. Ed Miliband had called in sick, so an NHS rally had been cancelled and he'd gone to the football instead. It's not much of a line, now I look at it but it didn't have to be.

The most revealing exchange suggested that Labour may be losing the argument on the Health Bill. Clegg gave her three bite-sized facts to chew on: 1) Labour was wanting to spend less on the NHS than the Coalition. 2) Sweetheart deals with the private sector were now illegal. 3) There was a new statutory duty to reduce health inequalities.

Ms Harman's glorious response was: " Absolute RUBBISH!" It was like seeing a gender stereotype in action. Clegg also dealt elegantly with Peter Lilley and pleasantly with Dennis Skinner (something Cameron mishandled the other week). He has the stamina and the resilience.

Maybe the Coalition will do more than survive to the 2015 general election. Maybe it'll be recreated when the results come in.