Published on December 4th, 2013 |
by Oliver Campbell
Prime Minister’s Questions: Day of the Deputies
Prime Minister’s Questions took on a completely different look today, with Nick Clegg stepping into the shoes of the absent David Cameron while Harriet Harman filled in for Ed Miliband. Today was therefore the battle of the deputies, and despite that title not sounding overly enthralling; what the debate did emphasise was the problem of the coalition.
Unsurprisingly Labour continued on from last week’s debate by focusing on the cost of living, with Harman asking Clegg whether ‘compared to last year will this winters household energy bills be lower or higher?’ It was here that Nick Clegg began to express his inner John Culshaw, transforming before our very eyes into the Conservative party leader. The Deputy Prime Minister, instead of answering the question directly, attacked Labour’s energy price freeze, calling it ‘economically illiterate’ and a ‘con’, a response that would have made mini-me proud.
This is the problem with Nick Clegg being the leader of the minority party in the coalition. In order for the coalition to work the Liberal Democrats have had to make sacrifices, the rise in tuition fees being the most documented of these. At his party conference Clegg argued that the Liberal Democrats were now a party of government and had helped drag the Conservatives towards the middle of the political spectrum. However at times it seems that they have become the whipping boys of government instead.
As the debate rattled on Clegg became even more evasive. Harman asking Clegg how much of the recently announced £50 reduction in energy bills actually comes from the pockets of the energy companies. Clegg replied by calling Labour’s energy policy ‘pure fantasy’, showing again how the coalition government has done nothing to move towards limiting the profits and powers of the energy companies.
There were points in today’s debate when Clegg’s impression of Cameron did wane. MPs from both Labour and the Liberal Democrats quizzed him on issues with the intention of showing Liberal Democrat policy over that of the Conservatives. One of these issues was the marriage tax break, a policy that Clegg and his party are against. However this was merely a footnote in the grand scheme of things, his brief and muted response reflecting this.
The fact of the matter is that Clegg may have power in government however it is reflecting badly on his party. Before the election Clegg continually pointed to his party being a refreshing alternative to the Labour/Conservative dichotomy. However in the coalition, Nick Clegg struggles to outline a clear Liberal Democrat line of policy. The way in which he hid behind energy price rises by citing the in coming reduction of green levies highlights this. Ever since becoming the leader of the Liberal Demorcats Nick Clegg has always stood by green energy solutions and his response today on a question concerning wind farms underlined this. However to then justify the cuts on green levies shows a line of policy that is confused and hypocritical. Harriet Harman did not put in an amazing performance, however she still edged today’s debate due to her opponent lacking a clear direction.