Labour hate the fact that the Coalition is clearing up the mess that they left behind. Because the PM was in China the Deputy PM, Nick Clegg, stood in for him. On any interpretation he did a great job, when replying to questions from Harriet Harman. On certain issues we clearly have a different approach but on the key fundamental of turning the country around and taking the difficult decisions when left with a debt mountain the size of Everest the Coalition are as one. It is worth analysing some of the questions and answers:
He was tackled on the economy by Harriet Harman:
Clegg replied that:
"We have our differences on this side of the House, but the one thing that unites us is that we would not have gone on a prawn- cocktail charm offensive sucking up to the banks, which created the problem in the first place. We would not simply say to our children and grandchildren, “You can pay off this generation’s debts.” No one on this side of the House [ie the Conservatives and the Liberals] would have broken the British economy in the first place."
Harriet talked about Labour's energy policy [ a little rich from a government that failed to build any nuclear power stations etc]. Clegg replied, making the point about the need for greater switching, competetion and the efforts to reduce bills this week:
"We have done that by adjusting the policies, while adhering to our green commitments, where Government policy has an influence on people’s energy bills. Her party’s policy is pure fantasy—total and utter fantasy. We have got £50; she has a fantasy freeze."
Harriet again attacked on energy prices. Clegg addressed various issues - with a quick diversion into Spanish, which did cause a quick interruption...:
"The right hon. and learned Lady talks about standing up to vested interests, in the week that we discover that the great courage of the Labour leadership to stand up to its trade union paymasters is—[Interruption.] Guess what? It is mañana, mañana, mañana; all too difficult, an absolute—[Interruption.]"
Mr Speaker: Order. This House should be the bastion of free speech.
The Deputy Prime Minister:
"And, Mr Speaker, if I may say so, it should be the bastion of political parties free of vested interests, and it is high time that the Labour leadership does what it says and stands up to its trade union paymasters. The right hon. and learned Lady should stand up to her bosses first."
On the spare room subsidy, which Labour looked at but did not have the courage to address, Clegg replied as follows:
"Under the right hon. and learned Lady’s Government, for 13 years housing benefit to people in the private rented sector was provided only on the basis of the number of rooms needed. We are applying exactly that same rule, which they administered for 13 years, to those in the social rented sector. For the reasons we heard earlier, we have at the same time many, many thousands of families in overcrowded properties and 1.8 million households still on the housing waiting list. As with so many other things, we are sorting out the mess they left behind"
Harriet tried to claim that Labour had a plan for the economy - this caused an awful lot of laughter by all present, given that Gordon Brown was their architect [with Balls as his right hand man] of the mess we are in: Clegg replied
"They are not a Government in waiting; they are not even an Opposition in waiting. It is 18 months before the next general election and we still have no clue from those six questions what the Labour party would actually do. Well, we know a few things: an energy con that would see prices go up rather than down; no apology for crashing the economy in the first place; and a total failure to stand up to trade union bosses. If they cannot manage to come up with some sensible polices and they cannot manage their own party, why should anyone think that they can manage our country?"
There were a lot of very upset members of the Labour party chuntering afterwards about how Labour needs to apologise, come up with a credible policies and stop opposing everything. For those interested in the full debate I attach it here: