It might not trip off the tongue too easily, but from immediate personal experience, a long weekend out of the country is a long time in politics. Hardly had I dodged yet another shower on the walk back from the station, got a brew on and loaded the washing machine, than it became all too clear that the credibility of Mr Speaker Martin was in serious decline. It was also becoming clear that only one party leader was up to telling him directly.
I considered some time ago the problem facing Corporal Clegg and his motley platoon when it came to making himself heard. He has subsequently proved more than equal to the problem, as I noted later. Now he has beaten Young Dave to the punch as well, this last point being reinforced by the number of Tory cheerleaders who have started to sneer at him. This is not a bad thing: on the contrary, it means that you are to be taken seriously.
Clegg now has the legitimacy to have real influence in the process by which the next Speaker “emerges” (for want of a better term to describe the event). All manner of names have been put forward, and some can be ruled out in short order. Frank Field may be of independent thought, but in the Speaker’s chair would not be able to campaign or call the Government to account as he can at present. Sir Alan Hazelhurst may be a name that satisfies Tory demands for one of theirs to take a turn after two successive Labour Speakers, but as a Deputy Speaker himself, may be too closely associated with Michael Martin’s reign.
And then we get to Ming Campbell. Yes, I know, the star of Redecoration, Redecoration. But it’s hardly on the scale of Nomortgagegate, Moatgate or Helipadgate. Ming may have been thought too old to lead the Lib Dems, but he’s quite capable of keeping discipline in the Commons. Pa Broon will respect him – the two look after adjacent constituencies – and Clegg would have the fillip of being kingmaker as well as dethroner.
But what of Young Dave? Well, he could have spoken up earlier, but what alternative could he offer? John Bercow? Patrick Cormack? Some Tories have put forward another Lib Dem name – Vince Cable – but this, too, should not be taken seriously: it’s another way of admitting that he’s too effective in his current role for their liking.
No, the opportunity and the momentum is with the one party leader who didn’t merely talk about leadership on this issue, but actually showed some. So come on, Nick, let’s have some more.