Coffee House

Nick Clegg’s new running sore

25 March 2014

1:34 PM

25 March 2014

1:34 PM

Nick Clegg spent the first 20 minutes of Deputy Prime Minister’s Questions looking a little miserable. A wan smile did flicker across his lips at about 18 minutes in, but it didn’t spread to his eyes or stay very long at all. In fact, he appeared to be doing his best to fit the best ever P.G. Wodehouse description of a man looking like ‘a cat which has just been struck by a half-brick and is expecting another shortly’.

Fortunately for Clegg, the other half of the brick didn’t turn up. In fact, when the time came for Harriet Harman to savage the DPM, he appeared quite happy that she’d chosen tuition fees as her weapon. She asked about the new figures showing that the government’s trebling of tuition fees will end up costing the taxpayer more than the current system. Clegg replied enthusiastically:

‘Mr Speaker, the new figures show that there are now more people at university than ever before. New figures show that a higher proportion of youngsters from disadvantaged families are at university than ever before, new figures show that there’s a higher rate of participation in higher education from youngsters from black and minority ethnic backgrounds than ever before. New figures show there’s a higher rate of application to go to universities from our youngsters than ever before.

‘Surely rather than speculating about what people may or may not earn in 35 years, the party should celebrate the fact that more people are going to university and more people are going to university from disadvantaged backgrounds.’


Harman told him that he hadn’t answered the question and had instead produced bluster. She then said that the ‘government got its maths wrong’. Would the Lib Dems rule out any further tuition fee increases?

‘There is absolutely no need for a further increase because in fact we’ve just announced at the end of last year that universities will be able to take an unlimited number of students, we’re removing the cap on the number of British students going to British universities, there’s no cap on the number of overseas students, so there’s no need.’

So Clegg thinks there is no need to raise tuition fees again (at the moment anyway). But his ding-dong with Harman shows how much this has diminished as a problem for the Liberal Democrat leader. Tuition fees used to be like the Lib Dems’ ex-boyfriend that they didn’t want to talk about, but now all these new figures that Clegg has quoted have come out to show that the dire predictions of the Labour party haven’t come to fruition, Clegg can quite happily talk about university access. The half brick has turned into quite a useful serve.

What has become a running sore, though, is Clegg’s favourite policy: free school meals for infant school children. He was pressed by Diana Johnson on whether these meals would be hot, or cold packed lunches. Clegg replied:

‘They need to be healthy meals, they need to be provided to all toddlers and all young children in those first three years at primary school… Of course the majority of them will be hot, we’re not going to prescribe in a centralising manner that I know her party is so fond of, that they’re going to be hot in every single location across 24,000 schools in our country. But they need to be healthy, they need to be hot, they need to be freely available, that will benefit families to the tune of hundreds of pounds and that will boost social mobility across the country.’

After the debate, a source close to Clegg explained that schools wouldn’t be prevented from also offering salads in hot weather or cold packed lunches when they go on trips, but that the aim is for these meals to be hot. ‘This policy is going to happen,’ the source said repeatedly. But it hasn’t half caused a kerfuffle. Perhaps Clegg was looking a bit sad because he was trying to work out how it was going to happen. But cold free school meals and the Conservative opposition to the policy is (regardless of whether it’s actually a decent policy) a better running sore to have than tuition fees.

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Show comments
  • MirthaTidville

    Clegg and Hattie…Dear God no wonder politics has slumped to such a low

  • Terence Hale

    Nick Clegg’s new running sore. “It beats as it sweeps as it cleans” when it doesn’t
    work change to dust bag.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Clegg tried to ditch the Libdems Tuition fees pledge in 2009 but the conference voted him down. It was only a problem for him whilst he was breaking the pledge. Now that it is producing statistics he can spin its no longer a problem. Of course whether or not the country will be able to support all the incurred debt in the future and maintain people’s standard of living and employment aspirations is another matter.

  • Barakzai

    ‘Harman told him that he hadn’t answered the question and had instead produced bluster.’

    Como ironicamente, as Mrs Clegg might say . . .

    • Hello

      Why, can she not speak Spanish properly?

  • Rockin Ron

    Anyway, away from all this nonsense, today (March 25) is the Feast of The Annunciation. So celebrate and enjoy this wonderful day.

    Extract from:

    The feast of the Annunciation, now recognized as a solemnity, was first
    celebrated in the fourth or fifth century. Its central focus is the
    Incarnation: God has become one of us. From all eternity God had decided
    that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity should become human. Now,
    as Luke 1:26-38 tells us, the decision is being realized. The God-Man
    embraces all humanity, indeed all creation, to bring it to God in one
    great act of love. Because human beings have rejected God, Jesus will
    accept a life of suffering and an agonizing death: “No one has greater
    love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

    Mary has an important role to play in God’s plan. From all eternity
    God destined her to be the mother of Jesus and closely related to him in
    the creation and redemption of the world. We could say that God’s
    decrees of creation and redemption are joined in the decree of
    Incarnation. Because Mary is God’s instrument in the Incarnation, she
    has a role to play with Jesus in creation and redemption. It is a
    God-given role. It is God’s grace from beginning to end. Mary becomes
    the eminent figure she is only by God’s grace. She is the empty space
    where God could act. Everything she is she owes to the Trinity.

    She is the virgin-mother who fulfills Isaiah 7:14 in a way that Isaiah
    could not have imagined. She is united with her son in carrying out the
    will of God (Psalm 40:8-9; Hebrews 10:7-9; Luke 1:38).

    Together with Jesus, the privileged and graced Mary is the link between heaven
    and earth. She is the human being who best, after Jesus, exemplifies the
    possibilities of human existence. She received into her lowliness the
    infinite love of God. She shows how an ordinary human being can reflect
    God in the ordinary circumstances of life. She exemplifies what the
    Church and every member of the Church is meant to become. She is the
    ultimate product of the creative and redemptive power of God. She
    manifests what the Incarnation is meant to accomplish for all of us.

  • Pip

    Clegg and his Party are a spent flush living on borrowed time, Clegg just wants to hang onto some semblance of credibility until he can take his place on the EU Gravy Train after the GE. The LibDems and their Leader are merely parasites clutching onto the shirt tails of the Tories whilst attempting to ram their limp wristed idiotic Policies down the throats of the Electorate.