Verdict: Clegg wins
Some of you who know me might well say, “You would say that Clegg wins, wouldn’t you?” To which I would respond that I try and be objective in these things. And objectively speaking, the DPM got the better of the spoils today.
Nick did seem particularly fired up on this occasion, it must be said. Whether it was wind in the sails from spring conference or what he seemed very much up for the scrap today – a little to Harriet’s surprise, I think. She went for the usual lines, stuff about how differentiation isn’t working and the Lib Dems are all Tories really, except for the ones that aren’t like Tim Farron who is critical of government policy and how this makes the Lib Dems a divided party. It has landed in the past this rhetoric, if I was being totally honest, but not today. To the Lib Dems voting with the Tories to lower the top rate of tax to 45p, all Nick had to do was point out that it had been 40p under most of New Labour’s time in office; Labour’s deputy leader went for the kill on the NHS and all Nick had to do was to point out that it was Labour who first flirted with public-private partnerships on health; when Harman touched on the “bedroom tax” and its supposed unfairness, Clegg responded by pointing out that there are 1.7 million people waiting for housing in this country, so why doesn’t Labour come up with something positive for once on the subject.
A lot of this comes down to your political stripes, I suppose, how you think the battle in the Commons today went. But you can’t say that Nick Clegg was cowed by what Harriet Harman had to say, which is all the Deputy Prime Minister really needed to achieve.