Two startling things happened in the Commons on Monday. A British home secretary was not only cheered, but applauded. And Nick Clegg fought back at his tormentors. If anything, that was even more surprising.
Theresa May's decision not to let Gary McKinnon be extradited to the US not only cheered up every MP, but saw her odds as the next Tory leader cut by the bookies to 12-1. (These days we don't follow the politics of power, but the predictions of Paddy Power.)
As for Clegg, he amazed everyone. It was as if a gang of school bullies had gathered round their favourite victim only to find him knocking their teeth out with his feet, like Bruce Lee on a caffeine high.
He didn't start too well. Tom Greatrex asked a question about the non-sexist royal succession laws. It turned out that Greatrex was merely asking the question to humiliate Clegg. "Given his unenviable record of success in relation to constitutional change" shouldn't he pass the job to another minister, "so that there will be some chance of it actually being introduced?"
The deputy prime minister replied thus: "Um." He continued, "um." Then he said something about Christmas cracker jokes. It was all pretty feeble.
But deep inside him, a fire was lit. Or he ate a can of spinach. Or he nipped into a phone box and changed into red pants. No longer was he the wimp laughed at by everyone. He was Superclegg, able to pull trains with his teeth, kicking whole sand dunes into evil-doers' faces.
Peter Bone, the human skull, can't stand Clegg. Bone's maths may be awry, because he seems to imagine that the Tories can govern without the party he loathes. He accused Superclegg of lacking integrity because he wasn't going to vote the new boundary changes into operation. This is the Lib Dems' revenge for the collapse of Lords reform.
In the past, Clegg would have ummed and ahhed and erred, and generally looked as if he'd like to crawl into a hole. This time he just flipped Bone aside.
Next a Labour MP raised the subject of the Tories' co-chairman, Grant Shapps, the man of a thousand names. Shapps (or Green, or whoever he is today) has offered a deal. The Lib Dems would get the party funding laws they want, in exchange for supporting boundary changes that will benefit the Tories.
"Yes," said Superclegg, "I suppose that is finally a get-rich-quick scheme he is prepared to put his name to!"
At this, Labour MPs let out an immense "whoop" of sheer pleasure. Clegg mocks Tory chairman! They adored it.
Bernard Jenkin, another Clegg-detester, asked if he was voting against boundary changes on principle, "or is it about getting what one can for one's own political advantage? Should we ever believe anything he says?"
What he got in reply was a scornful lecture about the politics of coalition, as if delivered to a particularly obtuse and lazy student. A few Labour MPs also tried to rile him, but he smashed them each in the kisser, too. Then he strode off back to the Daily Planet, or the Batcave, or even the Cabinet Office.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © Liberal Democrats