By Joe Mellor, Deputy Editor
Nick Clegg and Harriet Harman stood in for David Cameron and Ed Miliband at PMQs today. The Deputy Leader had to represent a coalition he has been trying to distance himself from all week. He also had to defend the distance he was from the chamber last Wednesday.
Clegg told the House he was in Cornwall last week on the day of the autumn statement, but “Labour had spent the last five years in cloud cuckoo land”, which I believe is just past Bodmin on the A30.
Harriet Harman attacked Clegg for his treatment of women inside and outside of politics. It was a matter of weeks ago they were wearing their feminist shirts in solidarity: This is what a deputy leader doesn’t look like. It was a lesson in Women’s Lib from Harriet, but she dropped the Lib today. However, to be honest he dropped himself in it today…four times (at least by the number of points of order afterwards).
The shadow deputy leader asked how many out of seven senior cabinet appointments under Clegg had been women. Clegg said he cared more about the millions of women who have been pulled out of poverty by the coalition.
Harman wittily hit back and said “he is normally more forthcoming with women and numbers”. If I’m honest I always put Hague’s 14 pints a day on a par with Clegg’s 30 women. Two pints of mild on Friday night and a drunken fumble in Freshers week, doesn’t really have the same ring to it. I guess that is the problem with the truth, it is often painfully embarrassing, so Clegg chose to not bother much with it during PMQs
Gregg McClymont, Lab, angrily stood up to berate Clegg’s claims that pensioners were worse off under Labour, he said his source can’t be the Institute of Fiscal Studies, so what was it? Clegg shouted about a triple lock guarantee, increased state pension…“That’s my source”. So he basically didn’t have one.
Clegg was worthy of some sympathy though after Ben Bradshaw, Lab, got his claws out. He said that in Devon, Clegg wouldn’t be able to get an operation because he smokes and Eric Pickles couldn’t because of his size. A clearly taken-aback Deputy Prime Minister responded: “That’s a bit harsh.” I tend to agree, especially from someone who needed an operation after “dancing vigorously at the Big Chill.”He was seen gyrating and stripping to the waist during a Grace Jones set. Bradshaw should be at the bottom of the waiting list for that alone.
Clegg used a bit of audience participation to respond to Harman, by pointing out negatives that were worse under Labour. The coalition shouted ”Higher” after each statement, fuel poverty “Higher,” pensions poverty “Higher”, fuel prices “Higher”, Gideon Osborne “Higher”. Ok I made the last one up, but he did look like he was in a (U)K hole for most of the session today.
Continuing the narcotic theme, Nick even accused Labour of “being the Lance Armstrong of politics, who had forgotten the last decade they had messed up”. When it comes to megalomaniac drug takers, he might look a bit closer to home.
They were queuing up at the points of order at the end of the session – pretty much everything Clegg had come out with today was challenged. There were heated demands to have Nick called back into the chamber to clarify the points made. But that wasn’t possible; Clegg was hurtling down to St Ives for the afternoon.
Sycophantic question of the day
Stephen Lloyd, Lib, who congratulated Nick on delivering healthy free school meals. Bit of a shame they have to go to the food bank for their supper.
Harman. The weather bombed and so did Clegg.