Tag Archives: PMQs

5 things Nick Clegg could do next

Nick Clegg Q&A 8My last piece of advice to Nick Clegg was to stand down as Lib Dem leader. He didn’t, and it’s pretty clear now that Nick will lead us into the next general election.

Two problems remain, though, and we need to find ways of addressing them. First, morale in the party has dipped since the May elections. Secondly, support for the party has also dipped in the polls. Yes, Lib Dem MPs benefit from the incumbency effect but that only stretches so far – we also need to start winning the air war, or at the very least avoid being ignored. As it stands, what Nick says just isn’t getting a listening. However unfair, it’s a reality we need to deal with.

Here are five suggestions from me for ways in which Nick Clegg could help restore party morale and maybe get himself a hearing from the media and public…

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Nick Clegg at PMQs, with added Elvis

Clegg_PMQsNick was standing in for David Cameron, who was visiting Israel, at Prime Minister’s Questions today. The half hour was, of course, punctuated with the usual pantomime and point-scoring, but it seemed a lot more relaxed and good humoured than it usually is. Cameron acts sometimes like the event is beneath him. Nick just took all the jibes, responded with a fair bit of patience and humour and even seemed amused by some of them. The Labour spin doctors must have been up all night thinking of Elvis puns after we were beaten by the Bus Pass Elvis party in a council by-election in Clifton in Nottingham last week. The best they could manage was “You ain’t nothing but a lap dog.” You could see Nick trying not to laugh but he didn’t quite manage it as he responded:

At least we are not the lapdog of the bankers, which is what Labour was in office. At least we did not crash the British economy. At least we did not cost every household £3,000. At least we did not preside over an increase in relative poverty. At least we did not preside over an increase in youth unemployment. We are creating the stronger economy and fairer society that the Labour party failed to create.

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How should PMQs be reformed?

Hansard-SocietyPrime Minister’s Questions, the half-hour weekly pantomime that transfixes Westminster and the SW1 media, got a deserved pasting from the Hansard Society this week which released a report, Tuned in or Turned off? Public attitudes to PMQs.

The results couldn’t be clearer. PMQs is a significant ‘cue’ or ‘building block’ for the public’s perceptions of Parliament, and it provides a lot of the raw material that feeds their negative assumptions about politicians.

The public like the ‘theory’ of PMQs but dislike the current practice of it. They recognise that the opportunity

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“Feisty” Clegg in Groundhog PMQs

So, the Commons had the weekly panto half hour to ask Nick Clegg lots of awkward questions. MPs limited themselves, though, to asking several questions many times over. Nick looked as if he was thoroughly enjoying the encounter and took every opportunity to promote Liberal Democrat coalition wins like fairer taxes and the single tier pension. Strangely,  though, he didn’t once mention the words stronger economy or fairer society. Not once.

Harriet Harman’s strategy was strange.  She wasted 3 questions on the fact that Cameron wasn’t there and that he’d only answered questions on one week in the last eight. Well, …

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Clegg v Bone: The Rematch

Just so you all know, Nick Clegg is doing Prime Minister’s Questions today as David Cameron is in the US. He will face Harriet Harman and no doubt a fair few of the Tory right wing Eurosceptics.

I doubt Peter Bone will be as friendly as he was last time Nick did PMQs, in November. And Ms Dorries has restored from the wilderness.

Nick has usually performed very well at PMQs. I expect his weekly phone in and regular town hall meetings make a Commons full of baying MPs much easier to tame. I’m tempted to make a comment about the …

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Nick’s second ‘Letter from the Leader': featuring PMQs, Leveson Inquiry & tax-cuts for the low-paid

Nick Clegg’s second letter to members and supporters has hit my inbox… This week’s email focuses on two issues. First, the impending Leveson Report into what form of media (self-)regulation will be needed to ensure newspapers don’t continue to abuse their power in the way that was exposed so forensically during Sir Brian’s inquiry. And secondly, on re-inforcing the Lib Dems’ number one achievement from the Coalition: raising the income tax threshold so that millions of the lowest paid in society have more money in their pockets.

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Nick Clegg at PMQs: what the papers say

Nick Clegg’s performance at Prime Minister’s Questions has been widely commented upon in today’s press. If you want to see a blow by blow account of the event, then I have collected tweets here and the official Hansard report is here. For me, the absolute highlight of an excellent performance from Nick was how he dealt with a question by Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming, who asked a question about giving people who had been in care access to their files. Nick’s reply was sensitive and genuine as he promised help for those who had been abused.

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Nick Clegg does PMQs in style

Nick Clegg did Prime Minister’s Questions today while David Cameron is schmoozing his way round the Middle East. He was so assured, confident and natural and spoke completely without notes. He even answered the question he was given and not the one he wanted to answer, too. He made David Cameron look like a complete amateur, to be honest, and Gordon Brown, too.

My Liberal Democrat Voice colleague Nick Thornsby reminded us on Twitter this morning that four years ago, two days after Barack Obama was elected the first time round, Nick, then a humble third party leader, questioned PM Gordon Brown, who put him down quite snidily. And the subject of his questions? Taxing the wealthy and cutting taxes for the poorest. Nothing if not consistent. Have a look here.

 

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Q: What links the AV referendum, boundary changes & Lords reform? A: The Coalition Agreement

It appears the Tories are attempting a sneaky re-write of some very recent, and well-documented, history. What prompts me to say this? Let’s look at the FT’s Kiran Stacey’s report of Nick Clegg’s feisty performance at yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions:

asked why he was so focused on House of Lords reform when there were so many other more important issues to tackle. Clegg’s response was very telling:

There are other issues like changing the boundaries which I know are close to his party’s heart…

The Tories will absolutely hate that. They say the original agreement between the two parties was

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Nick Clegg does PMQs – my tweets

As always, Paul Walter will be along later with his imitable account of PMQs, but I thought that seeing as our own Nick Clegg was standing in for David Cameron today, we could have a bit of a bonus.

I tweeted my way through a session that could have been a tough one for our leader – but he managed to deal with the predictable Labour attacks on unemployment and the Health and Social Care Bill thoughtfully and without aggression or rancour.

Here is a link to my tweets – with apologies for the spelling mistakes. My fingers had trouble keeping …

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PMQs: Tragedy, comedy and the Continuing Saga of the Family Bone

I’m not used to learning anything from the weekly pantomime that is Prime Minister’s Questions. Sadly, though yesterday’s session brought  me the news of the death of Marie Colvin, the veteran Sunday Times reporter whose often heartbreaking reports from war zones I’ve been reading most of my adult life. Both David Cameron and Ed Miliband paid tribute to her work, the latter calling her brave, tireless and an inspiration to women in her profession. More tragedy followed as Sajid Javid, the MP for Bromsgrove, asked the PM to join in with sympathy for those killed and injured in the bus crash …

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Chris White writes: Will the Coalition end with a commercial?

It is always slightly too easy to exaggerate the importance of Prime Minister’s Question Time. To the uninitiated (and there are some, mainly in more genteel democracies) it is a form of reality TV in which a normally dignified man or woman, with much on their mind and better things to do with their time, is forced to stand up for half an hour on live TV and be accurate, well-informed, witty and, well, abusive.

One slip and he/she reads about it in all the papers for the rest of the week.

The latest contestant (let us call him Mr Bullingdon) discovered …

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PMQs: Hattie opens up the Coalition’s Grand Canyon

I feel as though Norris McWhirter (late of the Guinness Book of Records) ought to have been kneeling at the foot of the Speaker’s Chair with his stopwatch for this momentous Prime Minister’s Questions. There were several records or firsts being set. The first coalition PMQs ever, I would suggest (I doubt whether Winnie or Ramsay or our David held such events). The first with Liberal Democrats on the government benches. The first with a party sporting its second female leader (Margaret Beckett was acting Labour leader after John Smith died). And it’s 13 long years since we had …

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Nick Clegg – working partner; working parent

The Independent today features a relationship-focused interview with Nick Clegg. It looks mainly at two areas for balance: work/family and his working partnership with David Cameron:

Mr Clegg… insists he is determined to keep family life and government work as separate as humanly possible.

In this aim he has found an ally in the Prime Minister, who is also the father of small children. Both agreed to change the timing of a cabinet meeting to fit in with the school run. “I try – I haven’t entirely succeeded yet – as much as I can to take the kids to school,”

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LDVideo Easter Saturday special: Lib Dem leaders at PMQs

Welcome to this latest LDVideo instalment, and today as a special holiday treat we’re highlighting three political video clips showing Lib Dem leaders on top form at Prime Minister’s Questions.

First up, is Ming Campbell. Now Ming didn’t always have the happiest time at PMQs, but there were times when he hit his stride perfectly, and this was one such occasion, on 24th January 2007, when shaming Tony Blair’s failure to debate in the Commons whether troops should be withdrawn from Iraq:


(Also available on YouTube here).

Secondly, how could we forget Vince Cable‘s starring turn as acting leader? Certainly Gordon ‘Mr Bean’ Brown will never forget it:

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Brown to face Iraq inquiry soon thanks to Clegg pressure

It’s nine days since Nick Clegg challenged Gordon Brown to volunteer to appear before Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry into the Iraq war this side of the general election “before people decide how to vote on his record in government?” And now it seems that Nick’s pressure has paid off – the BBC reports:

Gordon Brown will give evidence to the Iraq Inquiry before the general election, the BBC understands.

Mr Brown, who has said he is “happy” to face the inquiry whenever called, had been under pressure to do so before the election, which must be held by June.

The inquiry’s chairman is expected to confirm later that the PM will be asked to appear but will not set a date. However, the BBC understands he will appear in late February or early March.

You can re-live the exchange between Nick and Mr Brown, either on video courtesy the BBC or via the Hansard transcript, here on LDV.

Nick has welcomed the Prime Minister’s decision to face the Chilcot Inquiry:

It is well known that the Prime Minister was a key figure in Britain’s decision to invade Iraq. It is only right that Gordon Brown should explain his role in this disastrous foreign policy failure before asking the British people for their vote.”

This is an excellent result for Nick. Good in its own right: the Prime Minister should be asked about his role in the invasion of Iraq. And good for Nick’s growing stature as leader: once again, as over the Gurkhas and Michael Martin, it is Nick who is making the running, and punching above his weight at Prime Minister’s Questions.

This in stark contrast to David Cameron, whose string of lacklustre Commons’ performances are beginning to be noticed even by his friends at The Spectator. Here’s how the magazine’s Coffee House blog compared the performances of Nick and the Tory leader at this week’s PMQs:

The LibDem leader took a pop at Labour with a very smart weapon. He wondered why the government hadn’t acted to stop RBS lending tax-payers’ money to Kraft which is about to sack Cadburys staff. That’s three bogymen in one. … hate him because they can see he’s capable, plucky and politically shrewd. The house has strange ways of honouring talent. …

Cameron risks turning into the Rafa Benitez of Westminster. He’s living on a reputation which is rapidly fading from memory.

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When should the state intervene? RBS, Kraft & Cadbury and the Eternal Liberal Dilemma

US firm Kraft’s proposed takeover of Cadbury’s has made headlines in recent days. First, because it’s a major, historic British brand being snapped-up by a non-UK business (or ‘foreign predator’, as Vince Cable labels them). Secondly, because of the fear that job losses will result. And, thirdly, because of the role of the Royal Bank of Scotland – in which the British government has a majority stake-holding – in lending the money to Kraft which will fund its acquisition of Cadbury’s.

The Lib Dems – in the shape of Nick Clegg and Vince – have sharply questioned the role of the Government in the takeover. At Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, Nick asked Gordon Brown:

… there is a simple principle at stake. Tens of thousands of British companies are crying out for that money to protect jobs, and instead RBS wants to lend it to a multinational with a record of cutting jobs. When British taxpayers bailed out the banks, they would never have believed that their money would be used to put British people out of work. Is that not just plain wrong?

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PMQs: Clegg to Brown on Chilcot Inquiry – “What have you got to hide?”

Missed PMQs? Here’s the catch-up …

Nick Clegg pressed Gordon Brown to volunteer to appear before Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry into the Iraq war this side of the general election “before people decide how to vote on his record in government?” The Prime Minister replied that it wasn’t a matter for him. (Odd how when you become the most powerful person in Britain, you seem to lose the power to volunteer to do something inconvenient).

So Nick asked again, telling the Prime Minister he “should insist on going to the inquiry now”, and asking “What has he got to hide?” Again Mr Brown said, “Sorry, guv, more than my job’s worth” (or words to that effect).

Nick still wasn’t happy, so has now written to the Prime Minister, chalenging him to do the decent thing:

Dear Gordon,

I am writing to urge you to indicate immediately to Sir John Chilcot that it is your strong preference to go before the Iraq Inquiry ahead of the General Election.

Following developments yesterday at Alastair Campbell’s hearing, your personal role in the decisions that led to the war in Iraq has now come under the spotlight. The notion that your hearing should take place after the election in order that the Inquiry remains outside of party politics therefore no longer holds. On the contrary, the sense that you have been granted special treatment because of your position as Prime Minister will only serve to undermine the perceived independence of the Committee.

As I said to you across the floor of the Commons today, people have a right to know the truth about the part you played in this war before they cast their verdict o n your Government’s record. I urge you to confirm publicly that should Sir John Chilcot invite you to give evidence to the Inquiry ahead of the election you will agree to do so.

Nick Clegg

Well, I don’t suppose Mr Brown will change his mind – but Nick has at least exposed the Prime Minister’s relief-cum-satisfaction that he can dodge the Chilcot bullet, dominating the main political headlines as a result. And by the time Mr Brown does eventually appear he will be a genuinely powerless ex-Prime Minister so who’ll care what he has to say any longer?

Meanwhile David Cameron asked some windy, unfocused and instantly forgettable questions of the Prime Minister who gave at least as good as he got. Score-draw for theatrics; no-score draw for content.

Here’s Nick’s questions, courtesy the BBC. The Hansard transcript’s below it.

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Vince labels Lord Ashcroft a non-dom at PMQs

Forgive me if I tread carefully here, for while the Lib Dem deputy leader is protected by the cloak of Parliamentary privilege your humble scribe has no wish to tangle with a billionaire. So I’ll let The Times tell the story of today’s (Deputy) Prime Minister’s Questions:

A senior Liberal Democrat today referred to Lord Ashcroft, the Tory deputy chairman, as a “non-dom” in the Commons. It is the first time the Conservative peer, whose tax status is unknown, has been described in a such a way on the floor of the House.

Vince Cable, Lib Dem Treasury spokesman, used

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LDVideo … Nick’s PMQs, ‘Unparliamentary language’ and Jon Stewart’s take on ‘Climategate’

Welcome to the latest LDVideo instalment, featuring three of the most memorable video clips doing the rounds on the blogosphere.

I missed covering this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions, so here to make up for it is Nick Clegg’s contribution – taking to task (with some passion) Gordon Brown for Labour’s failures to put fairness at the heart of their policies:

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PMQs: Nick tackles Gordon on the new strategy for Afghanistan

There’s no doubt today’s PMQs belonged to Gordon Brown. It’s not necessarily that he answered the questions any better than usual – that seems to be an acknowledged superfluity for the Prime Minister – but his performance was miles more energetic and confident than usual.

Mr Brown was also helped by an over-defensive David Cameron, who seemed to have no quips prepared for the inevitable assaults by the Prime Minister on the Tories’ tax cuts for millionaires, and the tax-avoiding non-dom status of Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith. Especially effective were the Prime Minister’s withering put-downs – “The more he talks, …

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LDVideo … Mandy, Clegg and Coulson

Welcome to the latest LDVideo instalment, featuring three of the most memorable video clips doing the rounds on the blogosphere.

First up, is a rather catchy little email ditty in honour of Lord Mandelson’s implausible-but-deadly-serious Digital Econmy Bill, courtesy of Dan Bull:

As Dan would wish me to add: If you disapprove of the Bill, sign the petition, or write your own message to Lord Mandelson.

Second up, here’s Nick Clegg’s second question from this week’s PMQs – and it’s a real barnstormer, which has earned Nick deserved acclaim from across the political spectrum:

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Opinion: How can the Lib Dems use mass media to re-connect Parliament and public?

It has been documented extensively via many different platforms that Parliament and the public are more disconnected in the 21st century than at any time in history – although Parliamentarians have never been hugely popular with those who elect them.

Part of the problem has stemmed from the reduction of parliamentary coverage by mass media outlets. This can be traced back many years to the gradual reduction in the reporting of speeches in broadsheet newspapers. Speeches are now hardly ever published, and parliamentary sketch writers usually focus on specific moments during proceedings – sometimes only the trivial.

However, in order to open up Parliament to the mass media, and therefore the electorate, radical reforms to proceedings need to take place. The problem lies with the fact that many people who care about ensuring that Parliament is a more trusted institution are relatively conservative in nature – even if they are radical in other ways. In an institution where clapping is seen as unprecedented behaviour, you know you have a long way to go.

It is clear that media coverage of politics has moved on far more than Parliamentary reform. Here are two suggestions that could be implemented to bring Parliament in to line with 24 hour media output:

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Deputy PMQs: Vince tackles Harriet on bankers’ bonuses

Y’know I’ve expressed my general contempt for the pantomime which passes for Prime Minister’s Questions on many occasions: it’s theatre, mirage, insubstantial: all performance, no content. But we discovered today there’s something worse than the usual rowdy PMQs: when there’s both no performance and no content.

It’s hard to remember that William Hague once had a fearsome Commons reputation for being the best, sparkiest, wittiest debater on the block. Perhaps all those after-dinner speeches have dulled his senses – or perhaps he reckons he’s not paid enough to waste all his best lines on Parliament – but today’s performance against Prime Ministerial stand-in Harriet Harman was lame and dull. To put it in context, he made Harriet look actually quite good. She wasn’t – she was anodyne and frequently out-of-her-depth – but the comparison was to her credit, not his. Still, at least Mr Hague was better than Gordon Brown.

Vince Cable rose, as is traditional, to cheers from all-corners of the house. He started with a dry, slightly obscure, joke in Harriet’s honour – “may I express the hope that when she was briefing the Prime Minister for talks with his friend Signor Berlusconi, she remembered to enclose an Italian translation of her progressive views on gender equality?” – but then stuck to the touchstone issue among the public at the moment: how can government ministers talk of the need for public sector pay restraint when they are signing-off large bonuses for executives in banks currently majority-owned by the public? Harriet made a half-heartedly fierce show of sounding tough while committing the Government to nothing.

In a low-scoring contest, Vince edges it both for injecting (a little) humour into proceedings, and (more importantly) for asking a question that matters to the public, on an issue the government can do something about, and where his own party has something distinctive to say. Mr Hague, take note.

Full Hansard transcript of Vince and Harriet’s exchanges follow:

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PMQs: Nick tackles Gordon on public spending

Apologies, dear reader, but I’ve been busy at work rather than watching Prime Minister’s Questions (so that you don’t have to). I will catch up with it later, but I have read the Hansard transcript. And if today’s PMQs is remembered for anything, I suspect it will be for this quite sublime Prime Ministerial line:

… total spending will continue to rise, and it will be a zero per cent. rise in 2013–14.

Yes, you read that right: 0% counts as a rise in total spending in Gordon Brown’s eyes. The Evening Standard’s Paul Waugh (admittedly not a Labour cheerleader) sums up his performance today:

It was worse than that: it was bad in an inept, jaded, so-grey-I-make-John-Major-look-colourful kinda way. This was a man with the stench of decay around him.

Don’t forget that the economy and figures are supposed to be Brown’s strong suit. If he turns in a performance like this, it suggests that the only real reason for keeping him – namely a possible economic recovery for which he will claim credit – is disappearing fast.

If I were a Labour backbencher watching today, I would have my head in my hands.

That’s certainly how it read.

When Nick Clegg’s turn came, he also asked about public spending, linking the issue (in his supplementary) to his newly-adopted policy of scrapping the Trident nuclear weapons system. It was in his first question, though, that I think Nick did best, skewering the tortured efforts of both the Labour and Tory parties to avoid levelling with the British public how they will respond to the economics of recession. Full Hansard transcript of Nick’s exchanges with Gordon follow:

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We would be “suicidal” to do a deal with Labour

So say “senior party strategists” to the Guardian today:

Nick Clegg would resist overtures from a new prime minister as strongly as he would the current one, senior Liberal Democrat figures have told the Guardian.

The Lib Dem leader believes Labour is finished regardless of who leads the party, and as one close aide put it: “The sort of discussions they need to have can’t take place in government – they need to go into the wilderness to reflect where they stand.” The view damages the hopes of some on the centre-left who believe a change

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“Touché, Mr Speaker!” (It’s pronounced ‘Touchy’)

If you haven’t seen it, here’s the moment the outgoing Speaker Michael Martin forgot to call Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg – the man who last Sunday called for him to quit – for his traditional supplementary question at today’s Prime Minister’s Questions:

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Bloggers unanimous: Gurkha champion Clegg aced PMQs

As I type, the Lib Dems are holding the Government to account on their stance on rights for Ghurka troops to settle in the UK.

But in PMQs this afternoon, Clegg launched a blistering attack on the Prime Minister on the Ghurka issue, despite following Cameron’s similar question.

And he’s been rewarded for his efforts with a round of ace reviews from bloggers across the spectrum:

Jane Marrick: Clegg’s finest hour

But it was Clegg who played the real blinder. This was the Lib Dem leader’s best performance at PMQs. Clegg has struggled to find the right issue to get the PM on,

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PMQs: Stafford Hospital and the “frenzied” target system

Quite an interesting session this: several questions, from all sides, did a good job of uncovering the deeply managerial soul of New Labour, and its according fixation with formulating strategy rather than getting things done, and with punishing management failure rather than seeking its  root causes in the bigger picture.

First, Cameron and Brown battled again, quite earnestly this week, over the economy. The bones of contention were Stuff and Things this time, rather than the more usual Apologies and Hurt Feelings, and the session was the better for it.  Cameron sought to prove that all the grandiose schemes and initiatives Brown announces week by week are not being implemented properly. Ministers, apparently, have admitted as much, but Brown stays in his “bunker”. Cameron’s definition of when the recession began differs from Brown’s (to whose advantage I know not. Cameron says the recessions began when the economy stopped growing in April, Brown says we entered recession in July – is there a technical right or wrong answer here, gentle reader?)

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(Deputy) PMQs: Vince tackles Harriet on Fred Goodwin’s pension

With the Prime Minister off gigging at the US Congress, it was left to Harriet Harman to stand in at Prime Minister’s Questions, and face interrogation from Vince Cable for the Lib Dems and William Hague for the Tories.

This was undoubtedly a pretty weak performance by Ms Harman (though, somewhat bizarrely, she has been lauded by the Guardian’s Nicholas Watt), who managed to come across as both flakey and humourless. She was heavily reliant on her official briefing and proved unable to think on her feet – in short, she was a perfect stand-in for Gordon Brown. However, I think Tories’ joy at Mr Hague’s performance is over-done: his performance was just as it was when he was Tory leader, polished and glib. Add that to the unpleasant braying of Tory backbenchers, and the overall impression is scarcely a positive one for the official opposition.

Vince was serious and sonorous, punchily asking some important questions about the pensions awards received by executives of the recapitalised banks. Ms Harman put forward a much more considered reply today than she managed at the weekend, under strict instructions from her boss no doubt not to make more over-hyped promises to legislate against an individual’s pension agreement.

You can watch proceedings via the BBC here, and read the Hansard transcript of Vince’s questions below:

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