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A blatant porkie, no blushing… that takes skill, Mr Clegg
23:33 GMT, 13 December 2012
Life has its delights. Then there are the days when, just after breakfast, you spend an hour and a half listening to Nick Clegg on constitutional reform.
We are probably now halfway through this Parliament. Cleggy’s fixed-term-Parliament Bill, itself arguably an anti-parliamentary concept, makes it likely that the Coalition Government will last until 2015. Yep. We’re stuck with him for another 29 months. Joy.
Then there is even a chance he might return as deputy PM in a Labour-led coalition. If you’re making sandwiches, Petunia, I’ll have one with some of that sun- dried cyanide.
Horizon planning: Nick Clegg noted that in past parliaments we would by now be deep into speculation about the date of the next general election
Talking to MPs from the Political and Constitutional Reform committee, Mr Clegg began by noting that in past parliaments we would by now be deep into speculation about the date of the next general election. It’s a fair point.
The committee’s chairman, a champion windbag called Graham Allen (Lab, Nottingham N), mused on about the merits of ‘horizon planning’. Your sketchwriter found his eye wandering to the fire escape.
Mr Allen had opened the session with an actorly popping of his eyes, for the hour was but nine.
Cleggy himself is a hard worker. No chance of slacking when Miriam is clacking her castanets!
He looks done in, poor chap. It must be maddening to work alongside Mr Sunshine Cameron, the surfboard kid.
Exhausted Cleggster was asked to summarise ‘progress so far’ on his constitutional reform. Well, he said, the public had shown ‘less than wholehearted commitment’. Ha!
Curious: The committee's chairman Graham Allen mused on about the merits of 'horizon planning'
He was referring to such things as changing the voting system, introducing elected mayors and police bosses, etc.
Some readers may not be fluent in Whitehall-ese, so I should translate. ‘Less than wholehearted commitment’ means ‘the voters couldn’t care less about my Lib Dem obsessions’.
The reponse from parliamentarians had been little better. When the reform programme ‘touched on the mechanics of power, it has become snarled up in power politics’, said Mr Clegg. He was referring to House of Lords reform, which was blocked by a few Tory backbenchers and most of the Labour Party.
Another item of long-overdue constitutional reform was constituency boundaries – getting rid of Labour’s rotten boroughs, which have tens of thousands fewer voters than many Tory seats.
The person responsible for constipating that reform Er, Mr Clegg himself. He got into a row with Eleanor Laing (Con, Epping Forest) about this. She demonstrated that Mr Clegg was until recently wedded to the idea of ending Labour’s grubby little electoral advantage.
Now Mr Clegg is blocking the change from being brought in until 2018 – by which time Labour may be back in power, and will be able to scrap the Bill.
Mrs Laing suggested that Cleggy had spoken untruthfully. Mr Clegg: ‘I entirely refute that! I bridle at the idea I was telling an untruth!’ His flat-faced indignation was beautifully comical. Everyone at Westminster knows he pulled out of changing the constituency boundaries before 2015 simply to exact revenge on the Tories for other matters.
‘Most people find it perfectly reasonable,’ Mr Clegg said of his position. How lightly he lied. You or I, uttering such a blatant porkie, would surely blush. Not Mr Clegg. It takes a certain skill – a steeliness, let us admit – to be quite so shameless. Behind Mr Clegg, in the public seats, sat 15 young men. No fewer than 12 of them wore beards. The march of the Cleggites!
Beside Mr Clegg was his Tory ministerial colleague, Chloe Smith, in a choirboy haircut, pinstripe suit and cufflinks. She said little.
Feline Mrs Laing lifted her spectacles by one of their fashionably thick, tortoiseshell arms and placed them at the very tip of her nose.
‘Come on,’ she said breathily (and angrily) to Mr Clegg. ‘We’re not a bunch of sixth-formers. We’re politicians. You have every right to wriggle out of the exact words. That’s what politics is all about.’
And that is why politics is held by the public in such disrepute.