What should Nick ask Gordon at PMQs?

by Stephen Tall on January 8, 2008

The eyes of the Westminster village will be fixed on the new Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, when he pops up tomorrow to put the Prime Minister on the spot. (The eyes of the world will be rather more fixed on the New Hampshire results, of course.)

PMQs is an arena in which previous leaders have tended not to thrive: Paddy, Charles and Ming were not fans of the Commons’ self-indulgent pantomime. However, Vince Cable’s stellar turn as acting leader has certainly raised the bar, and Nick will be well aware that his performance will be directly compared with his immediate predecessor’s – and that the media will love nothing better than to find him wanting.

So what should Nick focus on? Will he go with foreign affairs (Kenya or Pakistan), or stay rooted in domestic politics (NHS, the economy)? And will he play safe with his first outing, or go for Gordon’s jugular? How do LDV readers think Nick should play it?

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Low key & safe

by Jo Anglezarke on January 8, 2008 at 10:53 pm. Reply #

Yes I imagine he’ll go for a low-key question either on foreign affairs, or for a nice ‘consensus building’ question about party funding or something like that.

by Jim on January 8, 2008 at 11:01 pm. Reply #

My recommendation would be:

(preamble: acknowledge and lament deaths of British service people in Iraq and Afghanistan)

1. “Senator Barack Obama of Illinois yesterday described the Iraq war as a catastrophe, a disaster and an international disgrace which has blighted the reputation of the free world*, does the Prime Minister agree with him?”

(the PM will neither agree nor disagree with Senator Obama’s statement. He will welcome Nick as leader but may well make some snide remarks about him being the 12th LibDem leader in 5 weeks; hope you last longer than your predecessor; LibDem leaders seem to last less and less long etc etc)

2. “Well, I’m grateful to the Prime Minister for his warm welcome. But he will agree that the lives of our servicemen are more important than any of our fleeting political careers. If Senator Obama is indeed elected as US President this November, the United States policy in Iraq will change immediately. What provisions have the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth office made for this eventuality?”

*note: I don’t claim obama said this – my point is we should quote his strongest, recent anti-war position.

by Mark Littlewood on January 8, 2008 at 11:09 pm. Reply #

Despite my brilliant recommendation (above), I think he will probably go “low key and safe”.

But I hope not.

The one major thing we don’t want Nick to be is low key.

And that rather implies he can’t be “safe” either.

by Mark Littlewood on January 8, 2008 at 11:14 pm. Reply #

I think he’s doomed whatever he does; I’m the world’s biggest Vince fan, but I’m firmly of the opinion that the only reason the press heaped praise on him the way they did was so that whichever of Nick or Chris won the leadership election could be compared unfavourably to Vince. This may or may not have been conscious.

If he goes for the jugular, he risks embarrassment. If he plays it safe, he’ll be lambasted as a coward. It’s a lose/lose scenario. Sadly.

Or maybe I’m just cynical.

by Jennie on January 9, 2008 at 1:58 am. Reply #

Okay, scratch Obama. Find whatever Clinton said.

by Mark Littlewood on January 9, 2008 at 4:17 am. Reply #

My suggestion above was realistic rather than idealistic.

At Ming’s first PMQs Blair was only too ready to shoot the gun at whatever he said – the fact that it was his firat outing made him vulnerable to attack – it’s the same here – Nick will be so vulnerable as the fact that it’s his first won’t leave him many options tactically…

by Jo Anglezarke on January 9, 2008 at 7:42 am. Reply #

The problem I see with Nick being safe and low key is that it will hurt him.

He’s a new leader, the one to take us to the general election and I suspect lots of people leaning towards libdems and floating voters will be watching this first PMQs to see what he’s like.

If he doesn’t impress then the libdems lose out.

by MartinSGill on January 9, 2008 at 7:53 am. Reply #

“Do you think your safe with your back to that lot?”

by Martin Land on January 9, 2008 at 9:54 am. Reply #

Go for the jugular on something the Lib Dems we are perceived to be weak on – crime would be a good one, but the military might be another (but not an Iraq/Afghanistan snoozefest question).

by Gavin Whenman on January 9, 2008 at 10:23 am. Reply #

He should ask a question on the same topic as Cameron, but ask it better.

by Dan on January 9, 2008 at 11:17 am. Reply #

Well I’m hardly going to be truthful and honest about what my real advice to Nick would be am I?!!!

This is after all a forum which is open to all kinds of misinterpretation, and any passing tories!!

by Jo Anglezarke on January 9, 2008 at 12:18 pm. Reply #

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