It's impossible not to admire Ken Clarke's confidence

Whatever you think of Ken Clarke's politics and policies, it's impossible not to admire the confidence, indeed the sheer brass neck of the man. In the Commons this afternoon the Justice Secretary has had the difficult job of defending the retreat on sentence discounts which the press have universally hailed as a defeat and humiliation for him.

You wouldn't think so to watch him in action. He's just told Labour backbencher Jenny Chapman that he's executed plenty of U-Turns in his time and that they should always be performed with "purpose and panache when you have to do them".

The little Clarke giggle was in evidence as he claimed he hadn't U-turned at all and was in fact leading a radical reform of which the discounts were one part. The final package was better balanced, he said, the butter in his mouth freezing solid.

Speaker Bercow chimed in, remarking that the Opposition Front Bench, who were convulsed with laughter, seemed to have been covered in tickling powder.

Mr Clarke's also just agreed with Lib Dem ex-cop Mike Crockhart that the 37-year-old Rehabilitation of Offenders Act is a barrier to rehabilitating offenders - and promised reform of it "soon".

Watch this space.