Coffee House

PMQs sketch: what Tony Blair knew about being a toff, and what Nick Clegg doesn’t

12 March 2014

5:37 PM

12 March 2014

5:37 PM

Hattie Harman tried to crack Clegg today. The deputy prime minister, standing in for David Cameron, explained carefully that his boss was visiting, ‘Israel and the Occupied Palestinian territories.’ Not a title the Israeli Tourist board has got round to using.

Hattie wasn’t on her best form. She tried to draw Clegg as a hypocritical house-slave attempting to duck responsibility for his master’s actions. But she plodded through her jibes. Over-rehearsal had killed her hunger to perform. And Clegg met all her accusations with a simple ploy. Blame Labour. It worked every time. On the bedroom tax Clegg had the support of the figures. A million and a half are on housing waiting lists. The same number are in homes with spare rooms. Makes sense.

Clegg took the opportunity to unfurl his new repertoire of vitriolic slogans. He said that Hattie and her colleagues had ‘sucked up to the City’, ‘crashed the economy’, and ‘left the worst peacetime deficit in history’. Labour were ‘the party of Fred Goodwin.’

Hattie tried turning Clegg’s state-of-the-nation musings against him.

‘He may love Britain but Britain doesn’t love him.’


‘Punchline wasn’t worth waiting for,’ sniffed Clegg. Then he rattled through a checklist of Labour’s blunders and the Coalition’s remedies and a strange transformation took place. He began to sound like an old Tory bruiser returning to Downing Street after ousting three socialist administrations in a row.
‘As ever,’ he huffed, ‘we’re clearing up the mess her party left behind.’

Labour’s backbenchers used Clegg for a spot of target practice. One called him a lapdog. ‘At least we’re not the lapdogs of the bankers,’ he said.

Another accused him of ‘spineless, shameless capitulation to the Tories on the NHS’. Clegg countered that Labour had done ‘sweetheart deals’ with healthcare privateers.

He caught it from the Conservatives too. Peter Bone called him an undemocratic Liberal Democrat for withdrawing his support for an EU referendum. Clegg performed a hand-brake turn and declared his full and consistent support for a referendum but only in circumstances where new powers are about to be ceded to Brussels. Some might call that cheating. He’d simply re-shaped the ‘in or out?’ issue into the ‘would you eat a dodo?’ question. It’ll never happen.

Clegg has an unflappable adroitness in the chamber, yet he still unites all sides against him. Is it the inherent duplicity of the LibDems? Is it his personal predicament as a Tory vassal claiming to oppose Tory policy? Or is it just the Blair tribute act? Certainly that brand of Savile Row populism looks out of date. And Clegg is much meaner than Blair ever was. He adores flinging his caustic little insults around and he repeats them with heartfelt relish. But the vituperative tone doesn’t sit well with the visuals. A suave, handsome toff who drips privilege from every pore needs a lighter touch and a more generous exterior. Blair knew that. It hasn’t occurred to Clegg.

He has plenty of confidence and facility but he retains a toxic shiftiness. And he can’t project moral strength. Ask the crucial question – the Vichy question – and Clegg comes out as a collaborator. The kind who later claims to have been a double agent all along. And then stands for president.

His bust-up with Harman was particularly vicious today. And people are wondering if two such bitter foes could ever work together in cabinet.

Of course they could. And they do. Just ask Vince.

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Show comments
  • andagain

    Clegg has an unflappable adroitness in the chamber, yet he still unites all sides against him.

    Perhaps it is because the great majority of MPs are from a different Party?

  • global city

    Good comparison. Vichy leaders used to constantly espouse their love of France, talk in terms as though France were an independent country, with ‘allies’ and ‘partners’ (all German), whilst perpetrating the most obscene and treacherous acts against her.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Hattie wasn’t on her best form.

    She must have been truly awful then. If there is a poorer less attractive politician in Westminster I’ve yet to hear them. Even that nasty little waste of space Clegg has more going for him than Mad Hattie. Why is it DPM’s are always useless idiots?

  • The Commentator

    I’m sure Mr Clegg and Mrs Dromey will get on very well in cabinet together. After all they are both well-heeled public school educated toffs. Mrs Dromey nee Harman even sends her children to private schools to make sure they don’t mix with the sort of uncouth low-life who vote Labour.

  • swatnan

    Both Clegg and Harman were awful, and let their sides down.
    Both need to be replaced asap.

  • telemachus

    In truth Harriet was magnificent
    And flanked by the Charismatic Andy and of course Yvette who admirably adopted the nodding and incredulity of the other charismatic one

    • Andy

      Yet she was perfectly happy to be associated with Peados for years. I wonder why.

      • telemachus

        You put too much credence in Dacre

        • HookesLaw

          No he relies on the indisputable facts.

        • The Laughing Cavalier

          The Mail has reported factually.

        • Nicholas chuzzlewit

          No documentary evidence actually. An alien concept to Labour the party of lies, lying and liars.

    • Colin

      Are you in fact, a ten year old ? Or, a four year old, for that matter ?

    • Colonel Mustard

      There’s you accusing poor Kitty of being besotted and referring to pro-right sycophancy here giving us a perfect display of just how far up Labour’s opposition bench backsides you have your tongue. It is quite beyond reason that all the remnants of Brown’s gang should be “magnificent” or “charismatic” merely because they happen to be the shadow cabinet in the party you cheerlead for. You really do put the T for Twit in Tribal. The lack of self-awareness is astonishing, even for a half-wit, robotic Labour drone like you.

  • London Calling

    Don’t it just make you want to rub onions in your eyes………..punch and moody….:O

  • MirthaTidville

    Mind you Cleggy wouldnt have had to try too hard today, Hattie is as thick as a plank and twice as wooden…Did she mention PIE and the NCCL anyone know?????

    • Tom Tom

      She is born to the social elite and intellectually-challenged typical of
      this nation. Without family origins she would have been a secretary or
      receptionist, and that is the tragedy of social mobility in England,
      that people like Harman do not go down

  • Donafugata

    “Retains a toxic shiftiness”

    It couldn’t be anyone else.

    • Curnonsky

      Used in connection with Clegg “shiftiness” should be spelled without the f.

  • anyfool

    Clegg looked for once like he had some sort of backbone, he positively put the Harpy to the sword, in fact he skewered the whole Labour lot effortlessly.

  • HookesLaw

    Hattie is yestwerday’s woman.

  • alabenn

    Harmon is an advert for never having a quota of any kind in any walk of life, she is a walking advert for cant and hypocrisy, she is the most inept person ever on PMQs, Clegg looks positively trustworthy in comparison.

    • telemachus

      Simply a misogynist post

      • Colin

        Come on, Tele. She tried to have her PIE and eat it.

        • telemachus

          Very good
          However you give me again the opportunity to remind all that Lynton Crosby leaned on the mail to have a go at Mr and Mrs Dromey to prevent the opposition rightly having a go at Downing Street for Rock
          Coming hard on the heels of Coulson

          • The Laughing Cavalier

            Nothing to do with Crosby. The Harman/Dromey/PIE story has been around for decades and many people have complained bitterly that the mainstream press would not touch it. This time The Mail has succeeded in finding the documentation needed to expose these paedophile enablers, particularly Dromey. It is a story that is long overdue. Next the Islington Care Homes scandal needs a proper airing. There are many others of this nature cutting across all the parties that should be aired.

      • Smithersjones2013

        Can you be misogynistic about the ‘Queen of Misandry’?

      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        Simply a troll post on behalf of Labour the party of lies, lying and liars.

    • Colin

      That’s harsh. Even dipsh!ts like hardump are entitled to a slice of the PIE.

      I’ll give you one thing, clegg did look and sound positively un-Lib Dem like, at PMQ. He came across quite well.