25 Sep 2012

Crick’s picks: the six knights of the Lib Dems

I bumped into the eccentric Liberal Democrat MP Bob Russell last night, proudly wearing a bright yellow Lib Dem waistcoat.

Or I should say Sir Bob, as the party high command got him for a knighthood a few months ago. And Sir Bob helpfully pointed out that he is one of six knights among the 57 Lib Dems MPs.

The six are Sir Ming Campbell, Sir Alan Beith, Sir Malcolm Bruce, Sir Robert Smith, Sir Bob himself, and following his sacking as Defence Minister three weeks ago, Sir Nick Harvey.

When was the last time a British political party could say more than 10 per cent of its MPs were knights?  And that doesn’t even include the Scottish hereditary peer who is now an MP, Viscount Thurso.

A senior Liberal Democrat was chuckling to me that Sir Bob’s title seems to have done the trick though.  Russell was quite a backbench rebel before his trip to Buckingham Palace.  Now, I’m told, his voting record is exemplary.

The most excruciatingly painful moments of the week so far were Danny Alexander’s attempts today to poke fun at his Coalition colleague Andrew Mitchell.  “Fellow plebs,” Alexander began his speech.  That got a small laugh.

Later he said that on the economy Ed Balls and Ed Miliband have “about as much credibility as Andrew Mitchell’s etiquette coach”.

Or Alexander’s speech-writer for that matter?  It was agonising to watch Alexander pause and glance round the hall looking for someone to laugh.

This time, barely a titter.

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