Deputies Duel – Stand-ins Clegg and Harman fail to deliver knockout blow

With David Cameron off visiting Barack Obama in America Nick Clegg made his fourth outing at Prime Minister’s Questions today, against the Labour Deputy Leader Harriet Harman.

Eschewing Ed Miliband’s usual attention to detail Harman sought instead to hammer away at Clegg by asking repeatedly what difference he and his party had made by opting into the coalition. In doing this Harman was seeking to heighten tensions between the coalition partners – already increased in the run up to next week’s Budget – and also within the Liberal Democrats themselves. She even went as far as to call Lib Dem Peer Shirley Williams a “national treasure” and to berate Clegg for whipping her to vote in favour the NHS Bill.

Yet despite her blustering attacks Clegg was never really knocked off balance in a contest which didn’t quite spark into life. Lacking Cameron’s usual composure the Deputy Prime Minister responded well enough, relying heavily on prepared comments about Labour’s record in power, but neither deputy managed to deliver a knockout blow.

It was also interesting to note that the NHS was raised again, for the fifth week in a row. While the reforms are clearly generating media interest, with one week to go before the Budget one might have thought Labour would focus on the coalition’s economic record instead…

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