Muscular Liberals are in short supply

Tim Farron, the yellow-bellies' president, wore shorts during an evening division

Self-important man, George Osborne. The haughty Chancer of the Exchequer considers every minute so precious that he doesn't wish to share his days with lesser mortals. A snout tells how junior staff are barred from meetings with the baronet's son: only civil servants at Grade 5 or above are allowed to breathe air rarified by his very presence. The arrangement suits lowly staff fine, who aren't exactly jostling to get through his door. Less happy are senior mandarins unable to send substitutes.

Terrified screams reverberating down the lower ground corridor behind the Speaker's chair brought staff running from ministerial offices, fearing a murder was in progress. The truth was more mundane. A mouse running along the floor had frightened
a voluminous young American chap working for the prisons minister Crispin Blunt. Heroine of the hour was a fearless assistant to the culture vulture Ed Vaizey, who bravely trapped the hairy beast under a waste-paper bin. My snout did witness a killing, however. After half an hour, a rat catcher turned up and despatched the imprisoned rodent with a blunt instrument.

The Libido Democrat Mike Hancock, a bearded parliamentary swordsman, continues to be hounded by the detention of his glamorous Russian researcher Katia Zatuliveter, whom spooks accused of taking an interest in more than constituency bus stops. A question was submitted in the name of the MP for Portsmouth Dockyard: "To ask ze Secretary of State for Defence if he willz release ze nuclear codes." The Table Office spied a leg pull.

So much for muscular Liberalism. Tim Farron, the yellow-bellies' president, wore shorts during an evening division. His pale, spindly legs were more Kenneth Williams than Charles Atlas. Cruel Labour wags called it Carry On Up the Coalition.

Made of sterner stuff is the pyrotechnician Mark Lancaster, firework factory owner-cum-bomb disposal expert. The Milton Keynes Tory and TA officer works out in the gym not in shorts but in army fatigues and desert boots. An overweight, panting MP moaned the sight of the super-fit Lancaster's yomping forced him to hang up his large Lycra kit.

Things weren't hunky-dory between the Cons and the Dems well before the AV result, if we believe the Daily Telegraph's ill-fated submission to the Press Complaints Commission after a couple of honeypot reporters lulled silly old Vince into pressing the nuclear self-destruct button. In a passage given little public airing, the editor Tony Gallagher claimed the Mata Haris with notebooks were deployed after tip-offs from "Conservative ministers including a cabinet minister" at last autumn's Tory conference.

Suffering a political car crash over those points, the Energy Secretary (at the time of writing), Chris Huhne, may need not look far for the source of potentially fatal revelations. His scorned ex-wife, Vicky Pryce, whispered a snout, spent many hours with the Mail on Sunday before it published details of a taped phone call with her hubby.

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 23 May 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Obama 2.0