I’m looking forward to the comments this week.
We saw a newly confident Nick Clegg at Prime Minister’s Questions today.
I’ve written before that Nick’s early Dispatch Box appearances were a bit like bear bating. He stood there, red-faced and growling as Labour MPs jabbed at him from all angles.
But, today, we saw an assured and relaxed Nick Clegg who was convincingly combatative. Most impressively, he discharged the session with barely a single reference to a piece of paper. Not for him the “chained to my indexed folder” look of David Cameron. In short, Nick Clegg was Prime Ministerial. “Best ever” was the comment of one MP picked up by the Parliament TV microphone.
For the sensitive, strong paper bags are available here
The high spot of the session, for me, was a Classic Dennis Skinner question about Murdoch, when he asked Clegg to tell him “man to man” what he thought of Murdoch’s relationship with Cameron. The question doesn’t read particularly impressively, but the delivery was fantastic – shouted, sputum-spraying invective.
We also heard a classic from John Redwood. – So classic it was like a Redwood caricature delivered by John Culshaw: “Will the Deputy Prime Minister introduce a freedom Bill to get rid of a lot of bossy and unloved regulations?”. It could be Redwood’s epitaph, so emblematic of his career as it was.
A quick note on the doughnutting (Firmly definition one in the Urban Dictionary). Unusually there was a least one LibDem MP behind Nick Clegg, namely Jo Swinson, unless I miss my guess. We had Danny Alexander beside Clegg (no Osborne, I note). And Harriet Harman had Ed Balls doing his favourite Ugly Sister act, twinned with Andy Burnham on the other side.
David Cameron was spending time in a big plane. Ed Miliband was spending time with his rhinologist.
Answer of the week came from Nick Clegg:
It is worth dwelling for a minute on the explanation provided by Ken Livingstone for his exotic tax arrangements. I quote from an interview that he gave just this weekend:
“I get loads of money, all from different sources, and I give it to an accountant and they manage it”.
That is modern socialism for you.
Harriet Harman was extraordinarily pedestrian in her delivery today. She read virtually every word she spoke with the exception of a rather desperate cry of “rubbish”.
At one point Harman sounded like Bjørge Lillelien. “Who he?” I hear you cry. He was the commentator who screamed: “Lord Nelson, Lord Beaverbrook, Sir Winston Churchill (etc)….Your boys took a hell of a beating!“
Harman’s own Lillelienesque canter through an historical canon went:
What has happened to that fine Liberal tradition? They must be turning in their graves: the party of William Gladstone; the party of David Lloyd George: now the party of Nick Clegg.
Clegg, in return, gave a couple of stonkingly good answers on the NHS, culminating in this:
The right hon. and learned Lady has invited me to make comparisons; let me make three comparisons. The shadow Health Secretary has said:
“It is irresponsible to increase NHS spending”.
So Labour Members do not believe in more money for the NHS; we do. That is comparison No. 1. Secondly, Labour Members indulged the private sector with sweetheart deals, which we are making illegal in the Bill. They want sweetheart deals with the private sector; we do not. Thirdly, they presided over inequality in the NHS; we are including a statutory obligation in the Bill to deliver more equal outcomes in the NHS, which they failed to deliver in 13 years.
Labour Whips co-ordinated phrase of the week
“What difference has he made?”
Liberal Democrat questions
Martin Horwood asked for reassurances that there will be “a truly green planning framework”.
Lorely Burt asked about increasing diversity on company boards.
Bonus Alliance question
Naomi Long asked about pipe bomb attacks in her East Belfast constituency and links to proscribed organisations.
Barry White soundalike of the week
The SDLP’s Mark Durkan.
* Paul Walter is a LibDem activist in Newbury, Berkshire and blogs at Liberal Burblings