Peter Hoskin

An important fortnight for Nick Clegg

An important fortnight for Nick Clegg
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Another reason to be glad of the Brown government's downfall is that there seems to be less silliness about the summer holidays. Today, Nick Clegg returns to London to steer government in David Cameron's absence – but there's no fanfare, nor energetic pretence that the Lib Dem leader is actually "running the country". Unlike those times when Harriet used to have a go at it, followed by Peter, followed by Alistair, followed by Jack, the overriding impression is just business as usual.

But that doesn't mean that the next two weeks are insignificant for Clegg. Rather, he can make sweeping advances on a number of fronts. The most important, and least public, will be how he handles the ongoing spending review. With ministers said to be reluctant to identify deep cuts, strong central direction will be needed to keep the process ticking along. And then there's the business of reassuring the Lib Dem masses. Beginning with a speech on social mobility this Wednesday, Clegg will be doing much to highlight his party's influence in government.

This could have mixed results for Clegg, though. If his solo performance results in a TV debate style upturn in Lib Dem poll ratings, then fine. But if if doesn't, then some in his party might start questioning, even more forcefully, whether the trappings of power are actually just a trap. Expect Simon Hughes to make an appearance in 5, 4, 3, 2…