According to the Times Nick Clegg (Deputy Dawg) is to get more than a shiny deputy badge in his hastily contrived role: his own Deputy Prime Minister’s Questions! He is likely to take the floor of the Commons once a week, to answer questions on his unique portfolio of constitutional reform and coalition trouble-shooting. Something to look forward to then!
The event, which has the broad agreement of the Speaker but is yet to be signed off by the new government, is likely to take place on Thursdays and be “bolted on” to Business Questions, where the agenda for the Commons is outlined. This will be seen as a sop to the Lib Dems who now sit on the government benches and lose the rights of opposition parties to cross-question the Prime Minister.
One of the complications of the new arrangement will be who sits across from Mr Clegg at the despatch box. Currently Harriet Harman, who has been appointed Labour’s acting leader, must lead for her party against David Cameron on a Wednesday. The role could be expected to pass to Rosie Winterton, who has succeeded Harbag as Shadow Leader of the House. I guess that Labour will have to have a shadow deputy dawg, but suppose that will be up to the new leader to decide.
John Prescott, the last deputy Prime Minister, used to have his own Question Time in the 15 minutes before Tony Blair took questions on a Wednesday. A kind of 'silly bugger' slot to warm them up you might say. However, this is not thought to carry enough prestige for the new holder of the badge. Nothing trivial for Deputy Dawg.
The office of Deputy Prime Minister was a made up job created, funnily enough, under our last coalition government for Clement Attlee. Clem went on to become PM in his own right. One of only two Deputy PM’s to do so. The other was Anthony Eden.
It is more like an office of political expediency and, where it exists, may bring with it practical influence depending on the status of the holder, rather than the status of the position.
It remains to be seen what Clegg will make of it with his rather nebulous brief of cooking the constitutional fudge and shoving it down the throats of his Tory colleagues and the British public! Let’s hope Labour put up someone who can give him a run for his money.