The Sketch: Ming told us of a crusade against poverty... I bet poverty wins

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The Independent Online

They each stood up to the lectern and reached in to an inside pocket for their prepared speech. Presumably, in the opposite inside pocket they had the opposite speech. Had the losers reached in to the wrong pocket, we would have heard their glorious victory speech beginning: "Kneel before your new master, snivelling insects!"

But there we were. The clear winner by a very large margin was Chris Huhne. He's been in Parliament for an even shorter time than David Cameron and he came a very respectable second. Extraordinary achievement considering ... but let's wait for that. There will be time. From Vince Cable's deputy spokesman to second leader in less than a year. He must be phenomenally unpopular among his colleagues.

Ming Campbell looked most impressive - eyes shining, face a bit like a Noh theatre mask, but commanding enough for one of the photographers (foreign, or new) to keep calling him "Sir". Maybe he thought it was his first name. Which in a way, it is.

Lady Campbell walks away - canters away - with the prize of most attractive Mrs Leader. Smokes, flirts, drinks, thinks, and is perfectly happy living in Edinburgh. As Toby Belch said so admiringly: "She's a beagle."

They all spoke well (it was the usual), but I could hardly hear them on account of James Naughtie just in my other ear facing back towards me (and his camera crew) giving us his account of the occasion. It's been happening for years, that broadcast journalists deliver their verdict on an event while it is actually happening. They don't show you the event but use it as a prop in their personal drama. It can't be right. It's almost as if they were sketch writers.

Ming told us about the brightest and best, fairness and freedom, the democratic revolution against the quango state and a crusade against poverty (I bet poverty wins).

People say - or at least, I say - the Lib Dems are an amiable irrelevance. It's often hard to take a contrary line, even to be provocative, but I must say, in Standing Committee A, Liberal Democrats are doing a very fine job of taking Jim Murphy to pieces on the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill.

David Howarth is so clever it's not always easy to understand him, but David Heath is so manifestly decent that his attack on the minister's intellectual inadequacies were extremely damaging. More - much more - later.

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