The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

PMQs: To Attend Or Not To Attend?

Posted by The Futility Monster on June 3, 2010 @ 10:07

Clegg did sit on Cameron's right, honest! This is just an older picture...

Yesterday’s first Coalition PMQs provided much grist to the sketchwriters’ mills. And it also illustrated just how Labour intends to proceed taking on the cosy coalition.

After yesterday, the big dilemma for Nick Clegg will be to decide whether he should attend or not. Yes, it’s a coalition, and it would look mighty suspicious if Clegg was never supporting the Prime Minister, but it would also look mighty suspicious if he never left Cameron’s side.

The problem is this: the Labour Party’s leader is going to bring up, during one of their questions each week, a topic that potentially splits the Lib Dems and the Conservatives. If Nick Clegg is there all the time, the goal will be to make him look stupid.

Hattie tried that yesterday, with her discussion on the comedy married couple’s tax allowance. Nick Clegg sat through it with the same expression on his face. No nods. No shakes. No smiles. No smirks. Nothing. Just that neutral expression he has got down to a T.

Yesterday, he managed to avoid giving the game away and revealing his disagreement with David Cameron. Or, at least, I hope it’s still a disagreement.

But we’re only human.

At some point the body language will slip. The pundits will analyse these exchanges to death – even more than usual – looking for the merest curled lip or furrowed brow to indicate Clegg is feeling a little uncomfortable. That’s not going to be healthy for the coalition.

And it’s only going to get worse. Right now there is a comprehensive agreement outlining where the parties agree to disagree. All current issues are covered, and so they can be deflected by saying that Harriet is just trying to play the “old politics” of division.

But as time goes by, new issues will emerge, and Cameron and Clegg will not agree on everything. At least, I hope they won’t. Then Harriet, or whoever the new Labour leader is, will come forward with quotes from rebellious “senior Lib Dem sources” and make Clegg and Cameron squirm.

Clegg would be wise not to make sitting at Cameron’s right hand a regular fixture. Appearing too close to Cameron compromises the Lib Dems independence. But being too distant would undermine the tentative working relationship they have.

The sensible thing would be for Clegg to sit at Cameron’s side no more than 50% of the time, and possibly as low as 25%. It is just too easy for Labour, otherwise.

Politics in the media age, eh…

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