The Sketch: Torpid backbenchers huddled, plotted and told jokes

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The Independent Online

After yesterday's excitement, a post-coital torpor hung over the Commons. Ken Clarke, the old elephant, answered justice questions from the Jurassic era. Meanwhile, the Tory backbenchers went about their business.

Here it is in its deepest navy blue: "What we've got to do is call Clegg a pygmy every time he comes into the Chamber. He'll get sick of it and fall out with us. Labour can't argue against an election even though they've got no money, no policy, no leader. The Lib Dems are annihilated and we get our mandate. Pygmy! Pygmy! Pygmy! That's the strategy." It's immediately understood. It's colourful. But it's not completely representative.

At another end of the spectrum: "We're going to have to recalibrate. We can't keep going 'No, no, no!' That was a good opening shot. But we can't have policy dictated by that – that – that –" He searched for a term sufficiently vile to express himself and sufficiently polite to use in Portcullis House. There wasn't one.

A passing minister thought the Liberal Democrat leader was finding himself under pressure – "Not so much in the Commons but from the Lords – some of whom have given their whole career to the EU."

And indeed, pressure from the Commons is building as yellow MPs realise they've given up their last article of faith. What are the Liberal Democrats for now? Other than ballast?

"It's a false dawn for the ultras," one of the Tory handlers said. "There's no way of getting out of Europe in this parliament. As for an early election – the five-year Parliament Act is a non-trivial exercise. Cabinet this morning couldn't have been more agreeable. Well, polite. Well, sorrow more than anger."

"What pickles me off," a euro-enthusiast said, "is how the media say he went off to appease his euro-sceptic right-wing. It's just not true! He had no alternative!"

And finally: "The Lib Dems have a new mascot." Oh Lord, a joke. "It's a dog." It's not going to be very funny. "It's a cross between a bulldog and a shitsu." Thank you and good morning.