PMQs: Deputy's turn

Labour’s Deputy Leader Harriet Harman has managed to pull off a stunning victory - she made Ed look good writes our UK Political Editor Harry Cole

How does one make Ed Miliband look good? Ah...
Harry Cole
On 14 March 2012 12:53

With David Cameron having the full treatment laid on by President Obama in Washington, and even on Air Force One, that pesky little weekly constitutional quirk that sees the head of the British executive branch grilled face-to-face with the legislature must seem like a world away for the Prime Minister.

Luckily, his semi-loyal coalition partner and deputy Nick Clegg was desperate to step up to the plate, eager to slay the government’s enemies and quash the opposition’s attacks with withering quips. This seemed to leave the coalition government benches a quivering wreck; in fits of orgasmic ecstasy, screaming, “more Nick, more!”

At least that is how the Liberal Democrat leader would have liked today to be remembered. Sadly it was not to be.

In a shocking development, Labour’s stand in - Harriet Harman - decided to start about talking about women. How gratifying it is to see her finally manage to break out of the box.

Having five liberal democrats around the government table has made no difference whatsoever, she crowed. While Clegg held his own on this point, Harman went for an absurd line of attack that the Lib-Demshaven’t done anything”. If they weren’t in government, the contentious Health Bill would have been through the House already. This was the major sticking point of that argument.

“The only thing he stands up for is when the Prime Minister walks in the room”. An alright line from Harman which received a solid laugh across the House. Luckily, Clegg was able to retort well enough.

Although she maintained her shrillness throughout, the key focus was on Clegg, who looked and sounded as if he was about to burst into tears for the entire bout.

The attacks from both sides were less subtle than with Miliband and Cameron and thus less effective. Harman pushed things too hard, which went down well with the urban-backwoodsman of the Labour core rump who only ever seem to turn up in Parliament once a week to jeer and hector in deep Northern baritones.

She overcooked her attacks especially “the party of Gladstone and now Clegg”. In fact she probably gave Nick an extra special line to quote in his memoirs in a few years from now.

Harman indeed managed to rattle the Deputy Prime Minister who fluffed a response and squandered his chance to rekindle the ‘Clegg effect’ that he impressed the country with a few years ago at the Prime Ministerial debates.

He clearly had the most to lose today and while he didn’t completely crash and burn, Harman managed to do something rather special: she made people miss Ed Miliband. One of the dullest PMQs in months, purely because of the calibre of the players. Come back Ed, all is forgiven. 

Harry Cole is the UK Political Editor for The Commentator and the News Editor for the Guido Fawkes Blog. He tweets at @MrHarryCole

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