Bob Russell, political survivor

On the day that we celebrated 90 years of the Duke of Edinburgh, the Liberal Democrats celebrated 40 years of Bob Russell.

Since 1971 the MP for Colchester has been fighting local causes and bombarding the media with press releases, first as a borough councillor and then, 14 years ago, as an MP.

Image caption Nick Clegg took on Bob Russell at pool - and won

And to celebrate this momentous occasion, his party leader paid a flying visit to Colchester to say "well done".

"He's an institution, he's totally unique," Nick Clegg told us. "When he was first elected I was only four years old. He's now one of the best-loved politicians in Westminster."

A politician, though, who has taken to rocking the boat.

"I think life would be much less interesting if Bob Russell always toed the party line," said the Lib Dem leader. "He's not a yes man - he says what he feels and I think people really respect that. They don't want cardboard cut-out politicians and in Bob they've got someone who speaks his mind."

No alternative

It may be because of his independence that Colchester was one of the few places in the country where the Lib Dems made gains in the May local elections.

Certainly Mr Clegg acknowledged that his party was not particularly popular at the moment but he insisted there was no alternative.

"We're doing some difficult things and we have to have a short period of time which will be difficult and challenging. I accept that people have concerns about what is going on.

"If I felt there was a magic wand we could wave, I can assure you that's something I would do."

Mr Clegg dropped into Mr Russell's office for a slice of cake. He then went along to the local YMCA where he took questions from young people who asked him about tuition fees, benefits and cuts to EMA.

As well as cake there were games in the form of pool. Mr Clegg took on Mr Russell and won.

There were no party bags as far as we could tell, but a few demonstrators turned up to wave Mr Clegg off.

Not every MP can command such a high-profile guest at their party but as Mr Clegg said, Bob Russell is one of a kind.