“Prime Minister David Cameron’s Liberal Democrat deputy has quietly emerged as the more successful Whitehall operator”

So writes Paul Goodman in the Daily Telegraph:

That Clegg persuaded his party to cohabit with the Conservatives is a tribute not only to his powers of persistence and his colleagues’ appetite for office, but also to the Coalition Agreement itself. Its importance can be over-stated. The Government has done things that aren’t in it, such as housing benefit cuts. And it won’t do things that are in it, such as postal ballots for primaries. But its carefully crafted terms, approved by a Liberal Democrat team apparently surprised by the co-operation of the Conservative one, achieved many of the party’s objectives. Planned Tory inheritance tax cuts were shelved, as was any EU renegotiation. It is perhaps futile to quibble about who won out, but one academic study has found that “the agreement was closer to the Liberal Democrat manifesto than to the Conservative one”, adding that “the Liberal Democrats’ achievements in the negotiations were impressive”.

But what may matter more than what the party gained – tax cuts for the lower paid, Lords reform, the AV referendum – is what it blocked, then and since: the repeal of the Human Rights Act, an end to the 50p rate, clear agreement on immigration control, Andrew Lansley’s original health reforms. Clegg’s role has been crucial. In public, he has disagreed with the Prime Minister about talking to extremists, NHS reform and – most recently – the Human Rights Act itself.

You can read the full piece here.

UPDATE: And as the 2015 general election result shows, being good ministers is far from enough.