Donald Macintyre's Sketch: If in doubt, blame Labour. For everything

 

Loyally wished a happy birthday by Sir Bob Russell, Nick Clegg, 47 today, thanked his fellow Lib Dem MP before remarking: “On my birthday, I look forward to nothing more than coming to Deputy Prime Minister’s questions.”

He said this in tones of unmistakable sarcasm, suggesting that his real meaning was “quite honestly I’d rather spend the morning submitting to a protracted spell of waterboarding”.

As well he might. The day had started with Boris Johnson calling him a “prophylactic protection device” for David Cameron, or as Boris did not deny, a Prime Ministerial condom.

Then Tory backbencher David Ruffley demanded he apologise for criticising George Osborne’s “excellent speech” on Monday which proposed £12bn of welfare cuts for the poor so, as the Chancellor didn’t quite put it, he can cut taxes for more prosperous floating voters.  

Labour’s Dennis Skinner pointed out that there was not one Tory member of the Cabinet present to support him and suggested he did “the decent thing and pack it in and let us have an early election”.

It must have come as a relief – for once – for Clegg to defend the Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable for saying that Cameron’s immigration target was undeliverable. Cable had been “entirely right” to point out “that the number of British people leaving Britain to live elsewhere, or those Brits... coming back, is something that no Government can necessarily control”.

This squares with the task Clegg has set himself of what marketing wallahs call product differentiation. On the one hand he out-Cameroned Cameron in blaming the “mess left behind by the Labour government” for everything from growing food bank use to hospital bed blocking at Christmas. So much so that you can’t help wondering what he will lay at the Opposition’s door next. The floods? Instability in North Korea? The threat that Downton Abbey will end after the present series?

On the other hand, he had no truck with any plans of Osborne for “further sacrifices by the working-age poor who are dependent on welfare”. Or the Government’s immigration target. The Lib Demophobe backbencher, Tory Peter Bone, proposed TV debates that would include Ukip’s Nigel Farage, now on an anti-immigration roll, so that Cameron, instead of saying as he repeatedly did in 2010, “I agree with Nick”, could declare: “I agree with Nige.” This would be Bone’s dream. But a nightmare for many others

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower