James Forsyth

Clegg’s only blemish

Clegg's only blemish
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Nick Clegg comfortably got through his first appearance standing in for David Cameron at PMQs. He was helped by a poor performance by Jack Straw, who made Neil Kinnock look like a model of concision. As Clegg said mockingly at one point, ‘that wasn’t a question it was a sort of dissertation.’

In his final response to Straw, Clegg attacked him for his role in the ‘illegal invasion of Iraq.’ Now, Clegg has long called the invasion of Iraq illegal. But it is a different matter to do so when standing in for the Prime Minister and speaking from the Treasury bench in the House of Commons. That implies it is the official position of the government, with all that entails.

There is no word on whether Clegg took advice from the attorney general before describing the invasion as illegal or informed the Prime Minister, who of course voted for the war, that he planned to do so. Certainly, there were some surprised faces on the Tory benches after he did so. I wonder whether an enterprising Labour MP on the defence select committee will ask the Secretary of State for Defence what he makes of the Deputy Prime Minister’s comments.