Peter Hoskin

Clegg holds no punches

Clegg holds no punches
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Third time's the charm? Not when it comes it Deputy Prime Minister's Questions it’s not. Nick Clegg put in an effective performance this afternoon, but – just like the previous two sessions – there was rather more heat generated than light. So far as Labour are concerned, this monthly Q&A is little more than an opportunity to barrack the Lib Dem leader – and they set about the task with undisguised relish.

Unfortunately for them, though, Nick Clegg bites back. Hard. Answering a question from Chris Bryant – in which the Labour MP referred to coalition housing benefit cuts as a "cleansing" of the poor from city centres – he glowered, "To refer to 'cleansing' will be deeply offensive to people who have witnessed ethnic cleansing in other parts of the world." Later on, Clegg reminded the jeering Labour benches that, "[they] introduced tuition fees, having previously said that [they] wouldn't." This was the performance of a man who is as mad as hell with Labour's caricature of his party, and isn't going to take it anymore.

Elsewhere, Clegg put in a spirited defence of the coalition's welfare policies, and even highlighted some of the good news that has been hidden in the small print. "The OBR," he reminded Harriet Harman, "also say that there will be over 2 million jobs created in the private sector." On this form, Nick Clegg is easily one of the coalition's punchiest performers – perhaps even, as Tim Montgomerie suggested on Twitter, the "biggest barrier to future LibLabbery".

UPDATE:
Paul Waugh has more on the housing benefit angle, including possible concessions to Simon Hughes, here.