In the summer of 2015, Nick Clegg joined his former cabinet colleague David Laws for a burger and a pint at the Duchy Arms in Kennington, south London. It was just after a general election that saw the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party reduced to the size of a water polo team. Clegg had lost his job as deputy prime minister and stepped down as party leader. His ministerial Jaguar was gone along with his security detail.

Laws, a longtime Clegg ally, had briefly been chief secretary to the Treasury before a scandal forced him to resign. The friends surveyed the end of the coalition and the wreckage of the Lib Dems. “He felt responsible for a lot of our losses,” Laws recalled. “He was massively