David Cameron’s plans to reform the House of Lords have been halted. It has been reported that “in a decision likely to cause a major Coalition rift. Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader, had viewed the introduction of elected peers as a key policy and senior Conservatives now fear he will scupper planned reforms to electoral boundaries. The redrawing of electoral boundaries – to ensure that constituencies have similar populations – would boost Mr Cameron’s re-election chances. It is the latest climbdown for the Government after a series of proposals in the Budget, including a pasty tax, were also abandoned”.
It gives context noting, “Earlier this year, Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg outlined plans to replace appointed peers in the House of Lords with elected senators. The first elections were to be held in 2015 with the elected members of the house serving for 15-year terms”.
The Lib Dems had threatened“consequences” after House of Lords refom was blocked It is now clear what these consequences are, with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg vetoing any legislation that would chage reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600 with smaller overall constituncies. The report notes that “Clegg has declared the Coalition “contract is broken” after the Conservatives refused to support House of Lords reform and the Liberal Democrats blocked changes to parliamentary boundaries in retaliation”.
It was mentioned that Clegg “said the Conservatives have defied the Coalition agreement by trying to ‘pick and choose’ which items of Government policy they support. The row marks one of the most serious crises for the Coalition since the 2010 general election with Conservative sources saying at the weekend that they were determined to push ahead with boundary reform. Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, said he was ‘very disappointed’, describing the decision as a ‘great shame'”. The report goes on to add that “The Liberal Democrats have historically supported boundary changes. Mr Clegg has previously said it was important to fix the ‘broken scales of our democracy’ by making the size of constituencies more equal”.
The article goes on to say that “Clegg stressed that he was still committed to Coalition government, insisting his relationship with the Prime Minister is ‘fine’. He said the Government would now “draw a line under” their disagreements over constitutional reform. Scrapping two major new reforms will leave MPs with a huge gap in the Parliamentary timetable for debating new legislation. Mr Clegg suggested the Government may now turn its attention to more financial reforms, as well as dealing with the struggling economy”. The piece concludes importantly “Equalising the size of boundaries could have meant that the Conservatives would win between six and 20 more seats at the next election”.
Indeed, if Clegg and the Lib Dems are to have any survival prospects beyond the expected 2015 general election, then they should not be wasting their precious time on projects where there is little interest or support. Instead the smaller party should concentrate standing up for its own ideology and combatting neoliberalism. Both of which, to varying degrees are popular. This would enable them to have a substantive list of achievements when Parliament is dissolved.