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Clegg's PMQs appearance causes furore

THERE was an almighty roar in the Commons chamber for Nick Clegg yesterday.

As the Liberal Democrat leader stood up to deputise for David Cameron at Prime Ministers' Questions (PMQs), MPs on all sides of the house hollered and bellowed.

On Labour's part they smelled blood and were keen to exploit what they hoped would be divisions between Mr Clegg's stance and that of Mr Cameron, absent from the chamber on a three-day trip to China.

After all, on a previous occasion at PMQs, Mr Clegg had attacked what he described as the "illegal war" in Iraq - not exactly the terms the Conservative leader would have used.

On the government side, there was a good turn out from the Tories to show their support for their Coalition colleague.

Conservative MPs would not have been there for another reason, would they?

For Mr Clegg it appeared at one point as if the adage was: beware Tories bearing gifts. One of the first questions lobbed at him from those allegedly on his side saw him forced into a defence of the bedroom tax, a policy a number of Lib Dem MPs voted against, although it is supported by the party leadership.

The Conservatives roared again at that one.

But a subtle change began to happen when Labour got its chance to ask questions of the Deputy Prime Minister.

If there is one person that Tories hate more than Mr Clegg, it is Harriet Harman.

The Labour deputy leader at one point could barely get out two words at a time without being drowned out by the noise in the chamber.

But she did appear to be successful in her attempts to elicit some tensions within the Coalition.

In response to a question on the economy, Mr Clegg declared that "without the Lib Dems there would not be a recovery".

That triggered a round of enthusiastic head nodding from the Conservatives on the government frontbench.

Among the Tory rank and file, however, there was merely stony faces and rather a lack of cheering.

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