With Gordon Brown in the US, David Cameron on compassionate leave and Nick Clegg on paternity leave, it was Harriet Harman, William Hague and Vince Cable stood in for their leaders at PMQs today.
Jonathan Isaby’s verdict: A clear win for William Hague, who demonstrated that he retains that command of the House which we so enjoyed and admired at PMQs every week when he was up against Blair as Opposition leader. Harman was out of her depth and kept repeating the same soundbite; Hague anticipated her responses, had some killer facts to throw at her and had far superior rhetoric, one-liners and soundbites.
12.30 Geoffrey Robinson raises a laugh by asking Harman to congratulate his "very good friend in another place" – ie Lord Mandelson, to whom he once lend several hundred thousand pounds.
12.28 Plaid Cymru’s Elfyn Llwyd asks who nominated Sir Fred Goodwin for a knighthood and why. Harman says she understands it is was not related to his work in banking, but rather related to the service he had given to the Prince’s Trust.
12.25 Tory backbencher Ann Winterton asks if it is true that part-privatisation of the Royal Mail is directly related to orders from the European Union. Harman says not.
12.20 Cable asks her to look at other public sector pension
arrangements; she takes the opportunity to mention that William Hague
got £30,000 for two after dinner speeches from Royal Bank of Scotland.
Vince Cable asks Harman about pensions law. He wants the Government to
use existing legislation to stop Sir Fred Goodwin and others from
taking their pension on the basis of negligence. UK Financial
Investments are to investigate the matter, she replied.
12.17 Harman accuses Hague several more times of focusing on
political gossip and says again that Labour are "fighting for Britain’s
12.16 Hague: "Isn’t it clearer than ever that the people who got us into this mess cannot be the people to get us out of it?"
12.15 Harman replies that there are lessons to be learned and that
the Opposition needs to learn lessons too. She mocked him for having
promised more deregulation when he was Leader of the Opposition.
12.13 Hague: "I may only be a deputy now, but at least I’m a loyal one". Will she advise the PM to say sorry for past mistakes?
12.09 Hague said a series of measures were yet to be implemented – a
jobs recruitment scheme has been delayed, a mortgage support scheme is
yet to be worked out. He then taunted Harman about her leadership
ambitions: "When Chamberlain lost his party’s confidence, Churchill
stepped forward. When Eden crossed the Atlantic exhausted Supermac came
forward. This could be her moment!"
12.08 The Speaker admonishes Greg Hands for shouting at Harman for
not answering the question. Harman says that the Tories opposed most
measures the Government is implementing to get credit moving.
12.07 Hague states the Government said its loan scheme would be
operation by March 1st. He asks Harman to do everything possible to
speed up its implementation.
Hague promises to hold the Government to its commitment to better equip
our troops. He then asks if it is right that the Government’s loan
guarantee scheme is not yet operational. Harman admits that it is
12.03 William Hague also expresses his horror at the attack on the
Sri Lankan cricket team and expresses a desire to see better equipment
for our forces in Afghanistan. Harman welcomes what he said and paid
her own tribute to those who perished in the attack.
Noon: Harriet Harman opens by paying tribute to the soldiers who died in Afghanistan over the last week.