The week in politics: Britain toys with optimism

Nation feels unusual after latest military adventure seems to turn out OK.

By Ian Dunt

Monday started weirdly, with the feeling that Britain may have done something good for the world. Libyan rebel convoys were moving into Tripoli with all the speed of an underwritten third act in a Hollywood action film. It was as if all those subplots about disorganised opposition strategies, assassinated generals and western ignorance of a complex tribal society had been merrily cut off, leaving just the barely sketched out main narrative.

No-one was as surprised as David Cameron, who sped back from his holiday in Cornwall – his fifth this year, since you ask – to stand outside Downing Street and tell everyone how brave he'd been when he convinced the UN security council to authorise the mission. The nation was prepared to feel good about itself. Obviously there was still the small matter of our terminal economic and political decline and the newly discovered feral amorality of our children still to be considered, but a crippled north African dictatorship had offered us some light relief.

All was positive and bright on that Monday morning, with Gaddafi's sons in captivity, the crowds celebrating in Martyrs' Square and lots of talk of forthcoming elections and political diversity from rebel leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil. Never mind the fact that he looks as if Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's face has been superimposed onto that of Vladmir Putin: he is a moderate, and that is the new standard when it comes to north Africa and the Middle East. It’s presumably of no consequences that he and his allies habitually privatise everything they touch. No consequence at all.

As we slept, Saif al-Islam, Gaddafi's London-educated son, went and spoilt the fun, appearing before hostages/journalists in the Rixos hotel in a Gaddafi-controlled part of Tripoli. Yes, that's right. Gaddafi-controlled. Those images of cheering crowds, now becoming endearingly familiar as the Arab spring continues into Autumn, failed to convince all his loyalists to give up and sniper outposts continued to riddle the city into the weekend. Said al-Islam, who was considered a VIP in the London School of Economics (LSE) just eight months ago but must now be shot on site for his moral depravity, cut a slightly mad figure, beaming and gurning his way through a tour of Gaddafi's shrinking capital and insisting to journalists that his family would come out top in the end.

What happened with Saif al-Islam? Was he ever captured? Did he escape, or was he released? We had no time to ask, because by the time we were once again starting to question our Libya allies, they went and overran Gaddafi's compound. The subsequent looting of his possessions provided an enviable tour of his delusions, from a golden sniper rifle (I want!) to a photo album dedicated entirely to former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice. Yep, you read that right. Gaddafi had something of a crush on her, calling her his "darling black African woman". You read that right too. In all the rushed euphoria over his fall, we’ve forgotten how entertainingly mad Gaddafi is.

Frantic efforts to find the dictator continued, with rebels hoping to end his ability to act as a figurehead. Meanwhile, the fighting grumbled horribly on, but Cameron wasn't there to see it because he'd returned to Cornwall. In a mid-week aside, he casually informed Britain that he would have no more children. The announcement came during a media-friendly tour of the hospital where his last child, Florence, was born, to celebrate her first birthday. Is this something people do now? No, is the simple answer to that, but this blatant photo opportunity was treated with soft-focus leniency by a fawning press-pack. It’s because he single-handedly liberated Libya, of course, and if you don’t think so you’re a communist.

Anyone who needed more than Florence for their silly season fix could turn to Celebrity Big Brother, where Sally Bercow was simultaneously being entirely right and deeply wrong on live television. Her habitual references to how she needs to stick her finger up to the establishment were starting to grate before she even went in, so they became positively suicide-inducing once she was sat in the diary room, looking disarmingly like a Madame Tussauds version of herself. Her basic argument, that husbands can’t tell their wives what to do, is self-evidently true, but most people were more confused as to why a decent relationship would see a married couple do things which made their partner's career untenable. At the time of writing there were reports of Tory plots to oust the under-rated John Bercow from the Speaker's chair. These have now become a fixture of the summer, like Glastonbury and crap weather. If, as expected, she's kicked out tonight, he'll probably survive.

Those of you still banging on about England's recent complete social and moral breakdown could catch the tail-end of the debate this week, as a problem that really wasn't even remotely sorted was swept under the carpet. Cameron, who spent the rest of the week praising human rights in other countries, dedicated Sunday to condemning them in the UK as a motivating factor. All this talk of human rights and 'elf and safety finally dragged the Lib Dems out of their morbid extinction coma, whereupon they began making subdued, threatening noises in the prime minister's direction. Epically overrated home secretary Theresa May tabled a meeting with Facebook, Twitter and Blackberry to tell them that she was going to close them all down during emergencies, only to realise that no, she couldn’t.

The rest of the week was entirely unsurprising. Andy Coulson continued to make life difficult by behaving in precisely the way you’d predict from a man who resigned for his underlings' criminal activities from one job only to be taken up in another without any due diligence checks. Hillsborough campaigners were granted the luxury of finding out information they should have been given access to a generation ago. Health and safety laws were shown to be mostly mad. Jacqui Smith demonstrated her unsuitability for office, but with a new twist. Cameron was shown to not really mean many of the things he says. The immigration cap failed to work. David Starkey was accused of not being a very good historian. And Clegg was reminded that he is not very popular among left-leaning Lib Dem voters.

Now that's the kind of news you can rely on. This stuff about Britain securing a people's freedom in a legal and internationally supported conflict is just confusing.