BBC Today programme neophyte and E&D pioneer Mishal Husain was not wrong when she declared that the Law Society Excellence Awards was a good night for female solicitors. One must just be grateful that justice minister Lord McNally didn’t refer to them as ‘the fairer sex’.

Now a Lib Dem, the veteran of Jim Callaghan’s 1970s administration appeared fresh out of that blowsy decade when he complimented Husain on how well she looked, despite getting up at 3am every day.

Cue audible hissing from the floor and a plaintive insistence from the minister that surely one can pay someone a compliment ‘in these politically correct times’.

Dangerous territory, your lordship, best avoided.

McNally was on surer ground when he remarked lugubriously that he was second choice for the awards, but Nick Clegg couldn’t attend as he is rehearsing the Lib Dem Christmas panto.

The heirs of Gladstone are doing Oliver! this year: songs include Clegg’s ‘As long as he needs me’ (‘I’d do anything’ might be more apt, Obiter reckons) and ‘You’ve got to pick a pocket or two’ by Danny Alexander.

Vince Cable, meanwhile, will sing ‘I am reviewing the situation