Harriet Harman arrives at the Oxford Media Convention on February 26, 2014. Photograph: Getty Images.
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PMQs review: Harman shows Clegg no mercy

Labour's deputy leader's all-out assault on the Lib Dems' record showed that she believes the party can't afford to go soft on the yellows.

With David Cameron away in Israel, it was left to Nick Clegg and Harriet Harman to duel it out at today's PMQs. Harman, who has long urged Labour to maintain an aggressive stance towards the Lib Dems and to avoid any hint of coalition, seized the opportunity to attack Clegg over three of the issues that have done most to alienate his party's left: the NHS reforms (most pertinently Jeremy Hunt's "hospital closure clause"), the bedroom tax (opposed by party president Tim Farron) and the abolition of the 50p tax rate.

In response, Clegg turned his guns on Labour's record in government. It was Labour, he declared, that "spent £250m on sweetheart deals for the private sector", that left too many people on council house waiting lists, and that kept the top rate of tax at 40p (as opposed to the current 45p) for all but one month of its time in office. He branded them "the party of 40p, sweetheart deals in the NHS, the party of Fred Goodwin, and the party against apprenticeships."

The problem with this line of attack is the extent to which Ed Miliband has distanced Labour from its past. He has declared that the last government got it wrong on banking, on housing, on tax and on privatisation. Given this, Clegg's charges largely fell flat. In choosing to attack Labour from the left, he also failed to even attempt to justify the rightwards direction of the coalition.

None of Harman's lines were particularly powerful or original. After Clegg's paean to Britain in his spring conference speech she declared: "doesn’t he realise he might love Britain, but Britain does not love him back?" and ended: "They used to talk about two parties coming together in the national interest; now they’re two parties bound together by mutual terror of the electorate."

But her strategy was a smart one. In order to win a majority in 2015, Labour needs to focus on retaining the support of the 25 per cent plus of 2010 Lib Dem voters who have defected (a swing larger than the cumulative increase in the Conservative vote between 1997 and 2010). The best way to do this is to continually remind those voters of the Conservative policies Clegg's party has enabled in government (the NHS reforms, the bedroom tax, the abolition of the 50p rate) and of the Lib Dems' rightwards drift, which alienate those who viewed them as a left-wing alternative to Labour. Today, she emphatically achieved that objective.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Quiz: Can you identify fake news?

The furore around "fake" news shows no sign of abating. Can you spot what's real and what's not?

Hillary Clinton has spoken out today to warn about the fake news epidemic sweeping the world. Clinton went as far as to say that "lives are at risk" from fake news, the day after Pope Francis compared reading fake news to eating poop. (Side note: with real news like that, who needs the fake stuff?)

The sweeping distrust in fake news has caused some confusion, however, as many are unsure about how to actually tell the reals and the fakes apart. Short from seeing whether the logo will scratch off and asking the man from the market where he got it from, how can you really identify fake news? Take our test to see whether you have all the answers.

 

 

In all seriousness, many claim that identifying fake news is a simple matter of checking the source and disbelieving anything "too good to be true". Unfortunately, however, fake news outlets post real stories too, and real news outlets often slip up and publish the fakes. Use fact-checking websites like Snopes to really get to the bottom of a story, and always do a quick Google before you share anything. 

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.