PMQs review: Did Clegg just put paid to a Lib-Lab coalition?

With Cameron away, the Deputy PM laid in to Labour

Share

David Cameron is in Israel, so both sides fielded their no 2 for Prime Minister's Questions. Some people groan and assume that Nick Clegg versus Harriet Harman cannot possibly be as interesting as the real thing. But the real thing was so dull last week that no one can remember it at all, and today's exchanges were much more revealing. One thing that they revealed was how passionately anti-Labour Clegg has become. Labour’s “sweetheart deals with the private sector” and “Mid-Staffs” were his defence to questions about the NHS.

At one point he was taunting the Labour side, asking them rhetorically to guess what the top rate of tax was during the years they were in government. "Anybody? Anybody? Forty p for 13 years!" he said. "Now she's complaining it's 5p higher!"

Later on, Kevin Brennan, the Labour MP, made fun of the Lib Dem council candidate coming fifth behind someone running for the "Bus Pass Elvis" party, telling Clegg, "You ain't nothing but a lap dog." The Deputy Prime Minister ranted back: "At least we're not the lap dogs of the bankers."

Quite hard to see how Clegg could ever lead his party in coalition with Labour after that.

What was more surprising, though, were the attacks on the absent principals on both sides. Peter Bone, the Conservative MP, asked a partisan question of "the stand-in prime minister" about which of the four main parties (he included Ukip) could deliver a referendum on Britain's EU membership. "Which of the party leaders trusts the British people and is a real democrat?" In reply, Clegg departed from what I thought the convention was - although I admit I have just made it up, because the rules of peacetime coalitions are not well established. The Deputy Prime Minister quoted what Cameron had said when he was resisting an in-out referendum. It may not have been unconstitutional, on second thoughts, but it was quite discourteous. While the Prime Minister was abroad, his deputy, standing in for him in the Commons and representing the Government, quoted him as a party leader against his party's current policy.

Even more shocking, though, was John Woodcock, the MP who last year stood down from Labour's front bench, who said that the whole House bore a responsibility for the Government's "shameful failure to intervene" in Syria. That sounded like an attack on his own absent leader, Ed Miliband, who had led his MPs to vote against the Government in August last year, which forced Cameron to withdraw British support for possible American strikes to punish the Assad regime for the use of chemical weapons - and which helped to persuade Barack Obama in turn to decide against them.

While the leaders are away, the silent and the loyal suddenly find their voice.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Seven per cent of young men have recently stopped using deodorant  

‘Sweaty-gate’ leaves a bad smell for PRs and journalists

Danny Rogers
Alison Parker and Adam Ward: best remembered before tragedy  

The only way is ethics: Graphic portraits of TV killings would upset many, not just our readers in the US

Will Gore
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory