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This week’s Prime Minister’s Questions was more a case of Deputy’s Questions; Clegg took Cameron’s place as the Conservative leader visited the United States, while Harriet Harman replaced Miliband.
However, the proceedings were very much the same: attacks on the Government from Labour, attacks on Labour from Clegg, and Clegg showed himself to be the joker that British television expects. Clegg seemingly struggled under the pressure as the Liberal Democrats and himself were attacked by members on both sides of the house. Clegg was asked if he had “no influence or just didn’t care”, had to tell the members behind him to “hang on” and deflected from difficult questions by attacking Labour’s “blank sheet of paper”.
Harman asked why the Prime Minister had only attended the House once in the last eight Wednesdays (although this is not very shocking considering the Easter recess and Baroness Thatcher’s funeral) but Clegg retorted branding Miliband as some of the best comedy Radio 4 had broadcasted. Harman’s questions were, however, a waste, as she used many to ask where the Prime Minister was rather than attack the Government’s policies, supporting Clegg’s later question as to “what were [Labour] doing?” during the last Government.
The conversation on Europe dominated the house as pressure for an in/out referendum increases; why won’t the Prime Minister tell anyone how we would vote, and was the Clegg promising a referendum on Europe in 2008 “an imposter or just a hypocrite”? Topics ranged from unemployment levels to the privatisation of Royal Mail to the Prime Minister’s attendance of the Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka, despite the nation’s human rights record. Clegg was far less confident than Cameron and is unlikely to want the House’s weekly pressure again for a short while.