PMQs: Nick tackles Gordon on poverty

by Stephen Tall on April 30, 2008

The last Prime Minister’s Questions before the 1st May elections was always likely to prove a rowdy affair: and so it proved. Yet the pattern was wearily familiar.

Gordon Brown and David Cameron slug it out, with Gordon looking embattled but resilient, and Dave looking smart but insubstantial. Then Nick gets up, gets shouted down by MPs determined to put him off his stride, asks a couple of sharp questions targeted equally at the Tories and Labour; and Gordon replies that the country would go to the dogs under ‘the Liberals’ (he still can’t quite bring himself to call the party by its proper name).

Commentators then argue over which of the three leaders emerged best. The honest answer: none of them.

Anyway, you can watch today’s PMQs encounter over at BBC.co.uk; or you can read the Hansard transcript below:

Mr. Clegg: It is obvious why someone who is a low earner in Britain today would not support the Conservatives tomorrow. However, after doubling the tax rate for the poor, leaving more than 4.5 million people in fuel poverty and closing thousands of post offices, can the Prime Minister explain why any low earner should support his Government?

The Prime Minister: Because we have taken a million pensioners out of poverty. Because we are on the road to taking a million children out of poverty. Because we introduced the new deal to get people in work—opposed by the Liberal party. Because we have introduced child tax credits and raised child benefit, and child tax credits were opposed by the Liberal party. The reason why people should support Labour is that our policies for social justice are not only taking people out of poverty, but giving people the chance of work.

Mr. Clegg: The Prime Minister is living in denial. If he wants people to believe that he cares for the poor, he should act as though he does. Is he not ashamed of the “grotesque chaos”, to quote Neil Kinnock, of a Labour Government scuttling around the country handing out closure notices to more than 5,000 local post offices? This morning, the Prime Minister said that he wants to be a listening Prime Minister. Let him prove it. Will he stop all further post office closures, right now?

The Prime Minister: Four million fewer people are using our post offices than did so a few years ago. We have put £1.7 billion into helping the post office network. Once again, the Liberal party is proposing spending huge sums of extra money without having any recognisable means of paying for it. That is why the hon. Gentleman’s shadow Home Secretary called him “Calamity Clegg”.