Sketch: Clegg has his West Wing moment

There is a sense of momentum about the Lib Dems.

By Aled Thomas

Any West Wing obsessive would recognise this moment for the third party as coming from the sixth series, when Matt Santos’s campaign goes from being Josh Lyman’s scrappy insurgency to serious contenders.

(Does that mean Vince Cable is Leo McGarry? Please, God forbid that anything similar happens to him.)

This morning’s breakfast press conference on banking and banking reform proves the point.

At 07:30BST most of the heavy hitters were there, with the TV stars naturally in the front row, with grubby print and online hacks, even Michael White of the Guardian, standing at the back, and many people commenting on how they’ll need to get a bigger room.

And as Andrew Neil said to camera afterwards they don’t really need to offer a good breakfast to get our attention any more.

(The bacon butties were lovely though, but the coffee comes from a machine. You can’t have everything.)

On the dot, Nick Clegg and Vince Cable swept in to tell us how rotten the banks had been, were still being, and how they were the men to make them good again.

And it was a very accomplished performance. If they ever were, the Lib Dems really aren’t the party of knitted sandals and muesli made from beards anymore. (Sorry, I may have got my stereotypes all muddled there)

They stood before a yellow screen festooned in the party’s logo, and campaign slogans. And all alone in the top right hand corner, ‘Backing British business’.

Which seemed a bit random, until I realised it was precisely placed to be in photos taken of Dr Cable; so any picture of him speaking would have that slogan neatly above his head.

(To return to my opening West Wing analogy, they might have got Bruno in to help.)

It was the questions which really gave the game away: a few desultory ones about banks and then to the red meat; which party will they help to form a government, and what will they demand?

Clegg was imperturbable. No, he’s not going to second guess the voters, yes, just like banking bubbles, political bubbles will burst, the party’s priorities are its priorities and it wants to achieve them.

He cleared away Andrew Neil’s searching question about expenses, and the only moment of discomfort was when Mr Neil appeared to invite himself to stay in Clegg’s semi in Sheffield.

(If I was Clegg I would have called his bluff, and said yes and contrasted the ‘modest, pebble-dashed semi’ with whatever palace of sin Mr Neil is commonly thought to call home.)

I’ve no idea if he’s got what it takes, or whether it will last but right now Clegg is riding his wave for all he can, and he’s doing it well.

He may yet have to go back to his Sheffield Hallam constituency and prepare for, well, something.