Follow every twist and turn of this week's PMQs with our live blog.
By Ian Dunt Follow @IanDunt
10:57 – Morning everyone. I am suffering from sickness today, the cold/flu/something died in my throat kind. You may notice that feverish hysteria has replaced the detached pithy observations you are used to. Never mind. If I have to pass out halfway through proceedings I will link you to someone else's live blog. I am a good, upright digital journalist. God knows who I would send you to though. All the other PMQs blogs are so boring. It's not the kind of session you want to miss today. Normally, Nick Clegg and (I'm guessing) Harriet Harman replacing David Cameron and Ed Miliband would be dispiriting. But not today. Harman is going to spin Clegg around the room on NHS reform and the various contortions of his party's policy. Let's not forget, either, that Clegg really put some effort into securing conference support this weekend, just for the party to vote against supporting the bill. As usual, there will be typos, and probably more than usual. The state I'm in right now, you'll be lucky if it's decipherable at all. Kickoff is at midday. See you then.
11:53 – International Development questions are just winding down. Edward Leigh (Con, face like an extra in Braveheart) asks about Somalia. Andrew Mitchell, international development secretary, is on top of his brief. Also, he has hair which actually makes you sleepy just by looking at it. Danny Alexander (Lib Dem, chief secretary to the Treasury, out of his depth in the modest of circumstances) is on the front bench, as is Alan Duncan (Con, villainous feature).
11:58 – Clegg is in, as is Ken Clarke. On the Labour benches, Andy Burnham, who's been making an awful lot of noise about NHS reforms, is beside Harman. His stock is at an all time high, even if it isn't substantial enough to form an obstacle to the bill.
12:00 – On Harman's left is Ed Balls, who will presumably be doing his usual performance. And we're off.
12:01 – Clegg stands. The House is full of noise, jeers from Labour benches, cheers, if not that hearty from the benches behind him. He lists the five men killed in Afghanistan this week, saying they were "men of outstanding courage". Silence. He also tells the house of the killing spree by a US soldier in the country.
12:03 – Liz Kendell (Lab, seems too likable to be a decent politician) reminds the House about relative economic performance in the UK and US. "What went wrong was the Labour government," Clegg says, as effortlessly as a Tory. When he talks about welfare getting people to work he is almost indistinguishable. Harman's up.
12:04 – Harman reads the names of the troops who died. She looks sombre in a dark suit. She expresses horror at the killing of the Afghan civilians. The moves on to… unemployment! They were quite favourable to the government actually – surprising tactic. She tells the Commons Clegg says the Lib Dems are making a difference to the government. What difference is he making for the million women out of work? Good question. Clegg says the unemployment of women went up by 24% under Labour. "I suggest we all need to work together," he replies. Harman says unemployment was going down when Labour left government. "It's hurting but it certainly isn't working. The truth is having five Lib Dems seated round the Cabinet table is making no difference whatsoever."
12:07 – She tries to get Clegg to talk about Cable's letter saying the government had no narrative, but he avoids it in favour of more analysis of the jobs figures, showing a rise in private sector jobs. Harman calls him complacent. Now she moves on to the NHS. "When it comes to the NHS the DPM clearly thinks he's doing a stunning job." Then she lists all the people/groups against the reform. Clegg: "The Labour party used to believe in reform. Now they believe in starving the NHS of cash."
12:09 – "We are proud of what Labour did," Harman says. Burnham nods, Balls stares at the Tories, strangely silent. Harman is doing very well here – nothing flashy, but pitted and effective, like a head mistress. "This bill is still a top-down reorganisation." As always with Clegg, the attacks feel very personal. "It's clear the DPM won't stand up for the NHS, the only thing he stands up for is when the PM walks in the room," she said. Clegg: "Some of her members must think we make a difference because they were handing out leaflets in Gateshead for our conference." He accuses Labour of handing sweet heart deals to the private sector on the NHS. "Is she proud of that?" he attacks. Strong, good, enjoyable stuff.
12:11 – "Even at this late stage it's within his power to stop this bill," Harman says. She says on Monday, the 90 Lib Dem peers in the Lords can stop the bill. Will he instruct them to do so? Clegg says he wants to make three comparisons. Bercow stops the noise for the thousandth time. Clegg cites Burnham saying its "irresponsible" to increase NHS spending. Secondly, he cites their "sweetheart deals" with the private sector. Labour also presided over "inequality in the NHS" he says. Harman: "Absolute rubbish." Huge noise from everywhere, but not the Labour front bench. "In making Shirley Williams vote for it, he's trashed not one, but two, national treasures. What has happened to that fine Liberal tradition? They must be turning in their graves. The party of William Gladstone. The party of Lloyd George. And now, the party of Nick Clegg."
12:14 – Clegg is on full throttle. "In government the Labour party ran out of money. in opposition they are running out of ideas." And that's that.
12:15 – Clegg accused Harman 0f sticking to the pre-prepared script. And she was. But so was he. Thing is – it was highly enjoyable anyway, I think just because they both so evidently despise each other. It's not like Cameron and Miliband where there doesn't seem to be any particular animosity. It's more like Cameron and Brown, where you really felt they hated each other. Lots of heat, not much light, but most enjoyable. Final score: Harman: 2 Clegg: 2.
12:18 – Bercow tells the Commons that whatever MPs had breakfast, he doesn't want it. He's averaging one intervention a minute right now. Skinner (Lab, red-faced dinosaur) is up. That won't help. "Now the gang of four Tories are gallivanting around America. Now what does the DPM really think about this Murdoch sleaze? What does he really think. I'll give him a chance to separate himself from the Tories behind him. Come on! Be a man!" Bercow, laughing, shouts order. Clegg: "We had to wait a while for him to get going but he got there. We're soon going to celebrate 42 years of the member's presence in this House and I'm delighted to see that in all that time he hasn't mellowed one bit."
12:21 – Clegg's way of dealing with Skinner – pleasantry and sentimentality – is much more effective and ultimately damaging than Cameron's, who uses abuse and disdain.
12:22 – Stephen Hammond (Con, through and through) prompts Clegg into mocking Ken Livingstone's tax arrangements, about using an accountant for his money. "That's modern socialism for you," Clegg says.
12:24 – The second MP so far gets up to celebrate those three towns becoming cities (can't remember which ones – don't care). This one was Perth. "That's the kind of question I like," Clegg says. Damning. Martin Horwood (Lib Dem, utterly harmless) asks about a green planning framework. I know. My eyes closed too. Jeremy Corbyn (Lab, dishevelled suits) says the capping of housing benefit is forcing out families in central London. "It's a process of social cleansing," he says. He wants private sector rent control. Clegg says the housing benefit is accompanied by a fund to deal with hard cases and says they are building more affordable homes. They're really not. Ah, sorry, no comment. Douglas Carswell (Con, remarkable mouth) asks about child benefit – the cut of point and unfairness. Clegg says he will look for a pragmatic way to implement it in a sensible manner.
12:30 – That's three tough questions from Tory backbenchers for Clegg – Redwood, Lilley and Carswell. He's hated from the front, and attacked from behind. Man needs a stiff drink. He's doing perfectly well though, if not exactly inspiring.
12:31 – Jason McCartney says three of the men killed in Afghanistan last week are his constituents and wants reassurance about the bodies. "I know how strongly he must feel," Clegg says. The Mod is doing everything it can, in "quite difficult circumstances" to get the bodies back as quickly as possible.
12:34 – Elizabeth Truss (Con, the perfect Con voice) asks about social mobility in the sciences. Clegg says the point is very important and it's why the science budget has been protected. John Woodcock (Lab, 12-years-old) says the Tories couldn't get their bill through if it wasn't for Lib Dem support. Clegg's response, on those sweetheart deals, is actually more effective than Cameron's usual competition defence, because it plays to Labour's home turf.
12:38 – And that's it. Bercow allowed that to play over for seven minutes. Must be some kind of record. Lots of pats on the back from Lib Dem MPs for Clegg as they leave. Far more importantly, I actually survived that without passing out. We'll see you next week, when it'll be back to the usual schedule of Miliband, Cameron and… well it must be NHS reform.