PMQs as-it-happensed

Ian Dunt By

11:48 - It's the battle of the deputies. That doesn't have much of a ring to it does it? Blood letting of the number two's. War of the underlings. Yes, that's good. I prefer that. Nick Clegg steps in for David Cameron, who is in China. Harriet Harman steps in for Ed Miliband. Hey - it can't be any worse than the last few weeks. Even the most enthusiastic Commons observers have contemplated whether PMQs might just be an enormous waste of time. It should be autumn statement day today, but Cameron took the concept of prostrating himself before the Chinese so seriously that it's been shifted to tomorrow to make space for his trip. It's alright though, something good has come out of it. We're selling them lots of pig semen.  Kick off is at noon. Usual warning: I apologise in advance for spelling errors, factual inaccuracies and offence.

11:58 - Justine Greening (if you don't know her don't worry about it, if you do know her: why?) is finishing up international development questions. Alan Duncan is looking rather dapper behind her. Aidan Burley wants aid policy to be based on what the money achieves rather than how much is spent.

12:00 - And we're off.

12:01 - Lots of noise, not all of it generous, for Clegg. "I have been asked to reply...." he tries several times. Eventually manages to get it out. An expression of thoughts for those who died in the Glasgow helicopter crash silences the House.

12:02 -The benches are not as full as usual, particularly on the government side. Harman's up.

12:04 - Caroline Flint, beside her, looks as insincere as ever. "Compared to last winter will this winter's household energy bills be lower or higher?" Clegg: "They would be higher.... "Cheers from Labour. "...if we had not taken the action that we have." He cites Flint saying energy prices can't be controlled. Harman says he hasn't answered the question. She sounds like a powerless teacher. Bercow demands order. "He's ducked and he's dodged and he hasn't answered the question asked," Harman shouts.

12:06 - Of the £50 reduction, how much comes from the pockets of energy giants? Clegg says he answered the question. Now, however, he dodges it. "Her party's policy is pure fantasy". Harman: "He said he answered the question but he hasn't. What he's trying to hide is that not one penny comes from profits of energy giants. They're tip-toeing round energy giants, allowing them to put up their bills. When it comes to standing up to the rich and powerful, this government is weak."

12:08 - She wants Clegg to admit that disabled people aren't exempt from the bedroom tax. Clegg making real noise on Labour's efforts to reform the link with the unions. "Manana, manana, manana" Clegg says. He sounds like a multicultural Tory. Or a Tory with a Spanish wife, which is basically what he is.

12:09 - Harman taunts Clegg: "We'll worry about our party members, especially as so many of them used to be his." Clegg defends the bedroom tax, saying it is a continuation of Labour's policy in the private sector. "Our change was only for new claimants - theirs hits people who have lived in their property for years and have got nowhere else to go. Without the Lb Dems there'd be no bedroom tax, no top down reorganisation to the NHS. He says he's a brake on the Tories but Mr Speaker even I know the difference between a brake and an accelerator. Isn't he the best deputy a Tory prime minister could wish for?"

12:12 - Clegg tries out his election line: "Without the Liberal Democrats, there wouldn't be a recovery." Harman: "There might be a recovery for the rich, but for everyone else there's a cost of living crisis. He'll go to any length, break any promise, and sell any principles." Clegg: "They're not a government in waiting. They'r e not even an opposition in waiting." Clegg keeps on focusing on the unions - it makes him sound very Tory. Ok, that's it for the main exchange.

12:14 - Snap verdict: Harman: 2 Clegg: 1. Neither of them were any good, they just slung mud at each other for a few minutes. There was even less content than usual. Harman edges it, not because she performed well, but because she at least communicated her message - that Clegg has no principles. Clegg's message is that he is different to Labour and Tories and should be trusted to temper them both. But he sounded almost exactly like David Cameron. The lines of attack were identical and he was quick to temper his comment that suggested a Lib Dem-Tory divide. Little bits - like the "manana" line - were delivered differently to how Cameron would have done it, but his line of attack corroborated, rather than challenged, Harman's message.

12:18 - David Heath (Lib Dem, father Christmas in some futuristic bureaucratic nightmare) asks about extended super fast broadband in Devon and Somerset. Yes, DEVON AND SOMERSET, imagine how gripping Clegg's answer is. Vince Cable has put fingers in his ear. Now he gently and lovingly slides them down his cheeks.

12:21 - A procession of planted questions. Shabana Mahmood hasn't even bothered to learn hers. She could at least recite from heart her utter capitulation to the party machine.

12:24 - Nick Raynsford (Lab, unmistakeably creepy) asks about a primary school being closed against local opposition, so it can become a free school. If true: abysmal. Clegg gives Michael Gove a hospital pass, saying he will write to him. Gove doesn't look impressed.

12:27 - Charles Kennedy earns silence, because he might say something critical. He says Osborne's help for Ireland and other measures suggest it is a good moment for supporters of the EU. Cheeky and troublesome. Clegg celebrates the "mischievous wit and wisdom of my right honourable friend".

12:29 - Peter Bone keeps getting up, wanted a question. He will ask about stopping Clegg becoming PM if Cameron gets killed. It's really all he cares about, apart from palming off details of his wife onto the Commons. Elfyn Llwyd asks an interesting question on an Italian woman who escaped an abusive relationship and came to UK, but is now being forced back to Italy on a court judgement there. He wants Clegg to intervene. "Minister cannot comment on cases in front of the court, whether in this country or elsewhere," he says. Some complaints about that.

12:32 - Bone gets his shot. "Hasn't the acting prime minister been outstanding today? You would have thought he was the right honourable member for Whitney. I think he's turning into a Tory." He demands the continuation of transitional arrangements for Bulgarians and Romanians. Clegg: "I'm glad he hasn't brought his morbid obsession with the death of the prime minister. I thank him for his double -edged compliment." Clegg has learned how to handle Bone - with a smile. "Order," Bercow says, "time's up."

12:35 - We'll leave it there for today. But we'll be back tomorrow with all the fun of the fair when Osborne delivers the autumn statement.

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