Tom Peterkin: This has been the year that our politicians have come of age when it comes to hurling insults

The year 2010 will doubtless be remembered as a momentous one in British politics. For some people, it will be best remembered as the year in which Britain saw its first coalition government since the Second World War. But for others, it will be remembered for far more important reasons. The past 12 months have been the year of the insult.

The thought that 2010 had been a cracker for name-calling came after reading a recent obituary of His Honour James Pickles. One could not help feeling a sneaking admiration for the old judge's offensive turn of phrase regardless of his controversial/outlandish views on sentencing, on women, on marijuana ... etc ... etc ... etc...

Anyone with the gumption to call Lord Hailsham "an arrogant, pompous, toffee-nosed Old Etonian" deserves some sort of credit somewhere from someone.

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One of the few really encouraging things about today's political scene is that modern politicians have proved equally adept at dishing out the abuse. What's even better is that now there would appear to be no need for the insults to be clever.

In the past, politicians like Winston Churchill were inhibited by their desire to put a tiny amount of thought into their insults – hence his description of Clement Atlee as a "sheep in sheep's clothing".

The rate of political progress when it comes to this unsavoury art has been quite exceptional, and more than half a century later, Harriet Harman can stand up at a party conference and simply brand Danny Alexander a "ginger rodent". It seems unlikely that the former equalities minister will ever win the Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The producers of Frasier have yet to head-hunt her as a scriptwriter. But rather surprisingly, Harman's "joke" brought the house down at the Scottish Labour conference.

At least it didn't bring the government down. That was left to Gordon Brown, who did that earlier in the year when he described a nice old lady as a "bigoted woman". The footage of the outgoing Prime Minister, with his head in his hands as his remarks were taped back to him, will be the abiding image of an historic General Election. It also serves as a reminder that hurling insults is perhaps not always a good thing.

The UK health minister, Simon Burns, is another whose not-so-carefully chosen words caused a kerfuffle in 2010. Describing the Speaker John Bercow as a "stupid, sanctimonious dwarf" was perhaps not the cleverest thing he has done.

But it does seem a shame that another political career that seemed full of promise should have been cut short before it had even begun. Labour sacked Stuart MacLennan, 24, as a candidate in Moray after he called Cameron a "t**t", Nick Clegg a "b*****d" and Diane Abbott a "f***ing idiot". What an impressive show of invective. Surely it is only a matter of time before young Stuart fulfils his true political potential.