Clegg at PMQs

“I suspect that’s the only point I will be cheered by the benches opposite”

Maybe so, but it certainly wasn’t the only time he was cheered.

Obama’s re-election was, of course, good news for the US and the UK; the slightly left right-winger is always more preferable than the right-wing right-winger. But, more importantly, the night turned up some more palatable results for Liberal Youth from some individual States – legalisation of recreational marijuana; support for equal marriage; election of an openly gay Senator; first disabled Senator; New Hampshire sporting an all-female house, with a female governor, all elected on merit alone; and then? A victory speech warning of the dangers of climate change. If the US can come round to these ideas, then maybe the time has come for us to up our game.

But, back to Clegg: standing at the Dispatch Box – minus a binder full of wo…rrds – fired up and raring to go.

An easy warm-up question on tax avoidance starts the DPM in good stead, in time for kick-off.

Harriet Harman stepped up to take on the boys in yellow, but her line of questioning was confusing; jumbled, non-linear and very weak.

Pressing on press regulation based on Lord Justice Leveson’s findings – a judge-led inquiry being something our glorious leader insisted on, don’t forget – was an odd thing to start on; no momentum can be gained when Nick agrees, but points out the failures of agreeing blindly to the changes suggested (something many Labour members have been talking of) and talking of the absolute need to ensure our press remains a free one. Being liberally responsible, as well as fiscally responsible, is something we need to shout about more, in all areas. One-nil (easy tap-in).

Next up: childcare. Referencing the party email Nick sent out, we got the usual ‘out of touch’ spiel – but, as with most politicians, ignoring the reality; in this case, 15 hours of free childcare per week for three and four-year-olds & similar for those two-year-olds who need it most. Couple that with our much-revered income tax changes, and it’s clear to see we’re on the right track. Two-nil (top corner, 10 yards out).

Tactical change again, and a police numbers attack comes from the opposition. Whilst deftly avoiding the topic of pledges (there are only so many ‘sorry’ songs a man can inadvertently write, after all…), Nick hits back with ‘at least you can trust us on the economy’. When the shadow Chancellor starts issuing denials of a denial, you can’t help but think we’ve sunk to Inception-level politics. Going on a couple of marches and brandishing a blank sheet of paper (if you’re playing Coalition Bingo, this was a winning session) does not an opposition make. Three-nil (free-kick, back of the net).

Onto the boring part (come on, admit it, we all think so), and a question on living wage. As something LDs have championed for a long time, but in a more sensible way – what’s the point of a living wage if the taxing of it leaves you with less than the NMW? It’s a fair point. But LDs have around 7 majority controlled councils, so to say we would make a massive difference is an overstatement.

Onto the almost regular NHS scaremongering – there are problems, of course – but facts would gain more sympathy than fantastical outrage – followed by a very good question on adoption. Equalisation of rights for parents is an area I’d like to see LY champion more, as no doubt there are those among us who have fallen prey to restrictions on their parents, purely because of biology.

Reckless (by name and by nature) surprised no-one by bringing up the EU and the next European commissioner, and Clegg surprised nobody who has any sense by seeing through the screen and confirming – for the millionth time – he has no intention of standing as a candidate.

I’ll admit that one of my favourite moments came when Ian Lavery asked why we were only standing 21 Police and Crime Commissioners. ‘Because that’s where they want to stand’ gained a laugh from our side of the chamber, but that in itself was because of the slap-down of Labour, not because others understood the democracy of it all (cue shouts of “we stand where we want, we stand where we want” from the yellow corner of our living room. If I had a scarf, I’d be waving it).

Some Alex Salmond bashing (alas, no mention of our very own James Bond by name), some jokes at the expense of Nadine Dorries and – most shocking of all – some words of praise from Peter Bone. Yes, admittedly, he was only electioneering – he now refers to Corby more than Mrs Bone – but the easy ride Clegg was given by Tories shows they were quietly impressed with his performance. And rightly so.

At the final whistle, it was hard to find many – if any – holes to pick in Clegg’s performance. Especially from our perspective.

I wonder what he had for breakfast this morning…

Stace Williams is a new member, who for reasons that don’t need explaining at this juncture, is now testing the boundaries of the word ‘youth’ and throwing herself into the world of Lib Dem campaigning.

These are solely the views of the author and may not represent the views of Liberal Youth, the Liberal Democrats, nor the editorship of the Libertine.


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