by Nicholas Watt and Juliette Jowit in The Guardian.
As one of the most erudite MPs at Westminster, Jesse Norman naturally turned to Charles James Fox to describe his own predicament yesterday.
Hours after David Cameron remonstrated with him outside the commons division lobbies, after Norman led the biggest Tory rebellion of the parliament, the backbencher quoted the 18th-century Whig statesman.
There had been "no loss of friendship", Norman told a reporter in his Hereford and South Herefordshire constituency before a visit by the Queen. Norman might have added that Edmund Burke replied to Fox: "I regret to say there is."
The Fox quote in 1791 was highly apt. Norman - an Old Etonian who wrote a study of the prime minister's "big society" - is meant to be a member of the Cameron tribe. But he has crossed its leader.
As he arrived for a meeting of the 1922 committee last night, the prime minister admitted he had challenged Norman in "forceful" terms though he denied he had shouted at the man who used to advise George Osborne. His irritation was an email, since retracted, in which Norman said that voting for Lords reform would actually help the prime minister.
But Cameron sought to play down the significance of their bust-up for a simple reason: if habitual loyalists such as Norman are prepared to turn, the government is in severe trouble. The rebels insisted they would stand firm on Lords reform but said they wanted to move on.
Nadhim Zahawi, one of Norman's main allies, made clear that he did not want a single vote against the party to sour relations with their whips and the leadership. Asked if he felt jubilant about their success, Zahawi said: "No, not even last night. It was with a very heavy heart that I voted against the second reading."
Zahawi, a close Osborne ally who was elected in 2010, believes much of the public will have seen the affair as his wife did, as a victory for Cameron: when he arrived home late after the vote she declared: "So you lost?"
Norman is one of the tallest MPs at Westminster. Unlike some tall men who strut around as alpha males, he is not an imposing figure. Even though he possesses one of the finest and most original minds at Westminster, he is affable and is as likely to have a chinwag on the latest gossip as he is to talk about Kant.
Norman, dubbed the Captain Sensible of the rebels, put these qualities to deadly effect on Tuesday night when he managed to organise 91 Tory MPs to vote against the second reading of the House of Lords reform bill.
Norman had been seen as an obvious candidate for promotion in the imminent ministerial reshuffle. But the qualities that marked him out for preferment - brains and cunning - were deployed against the government.
He ran an unofficial rebel whipping operation from his office in Portcullis House. He left the parliamentary estate in haste on Tuesday night after a delegation of junior whips warned them that John Randall, a senior whip, was on the war path.
Tory colleagues say Norman, 50, who is one of the few Tory MPs with a doctorate, is one of the brightest among them. Norman says he owes much of his learning to Kate Bingham, his intellectually brilliant wife who dazzled him at Oxford, and his late father-in-law Tom Bingham, former master of the rolls.
Norman recently wrote a lengthy profile of Bingham for the magazine Intelligent Life which deeply moved his family. Norman was amused that the main fact people remember from the profile was his father-in-law's instructions when the family and guests sat down for lunch in the local pub: sausages all round.
Tory colleagues paid warm tribute to Norman yesterday. One fellow rebel said: "Jesse Norman is one of the nicest men in politics. He is deeply principled and thoughtful."
The rebels also thought that Cameron was unwise to confront Norman, in an incident described as unpleasant despite attempts to play down its significance. "You don't piss on the most popular kid," one rebel said.