Coalition deadlock as Nick Clegg and David Cameron veto each other
Patrick Wintour, The Guardian
Monday 6 August 2012
Nick Clegg’s plan for constitutional reform and David Cameron’s scheme to shift parliamentary boundaries in the Conservatives’ favour both lay in ruins on Monday as victims of the prime minister’s inability to persuade his backbenchers to support an elected House of Lords.
A subdued and depressed Clegg announced he was abandoning all plans to reform the Lords in this parliament, adding as a result he will also be instructing his MPs to vote down revised parliamentary boundaries designed to reduce the number of MPs to 600.
The announcement represents a personal blow to Clegg, who had championed widescale political reform as a distinctive Liberal Democrat contribution to the coalition but has been thwarted at virtually every turn.
It leaves the deputy prime minister increasingly reliant on an upturn in the economy, progress on social mobility and a broader liberal agenda to justify the original decision to form the coalition with Cameron.
Clegg was eager on Monday to limit the damage from the collapse of Lords reform – insisting the government would still be anchored in the centre ground, and focused on delivering a revival of the economy, the reason the coalition agreement was made in the first place. He said a relationship of mutual trust and respect could be maintained with his partners.
Sucker or Liar?
UK coalition in crisis over parliamentary reform
By Tim Castle and Mohammed Abbas, Reuters
Mon Aug 6, 2012 2:56pm
The scuppering of Lords reform, a key plank of the coalition agreement struck in May 2010 with Cameron’s Conservatives, is particularly damaging for Clegg as it fuels the perception that the Liberal Democrats have gained little from going into government with a party that was not their ideological ally.
However, neither governing party is eager to sink the coalition and spark an election during a recession, and while polls show both parties are unpopular.
Dropping Lords reform is especially difficult for his party because he backed an unpopular proposal to increase university tuition fees as part of the coalition deal, a move that saw the Liberal Democrats hemorrhage support in opinion polls.
Jeremy Hunt, a Conservative minister, said Clegg’s announcement was disappointing but said the coalition would remain focused on its economic program.
“There isn’t a cigarette paper between us on that. That is what we are focused on getting the gold medal for. Nothing is going to change that focus,” he told Sky television.
Electoral Victory? Hah, hah, hah, hah, hah. They don’t care about that any more over there than they do over here.
Here’s what Nick Clegg sold his soul and his party for that he’s not going to get-
Cracks in British Governing Coalition as House of Lords Overhaul Falls Apart
By JOHN F. BURNS, The New York Times
Published: August 6, 2012
As the perennial third party in British politics, the Liberal Democrats have long regarded an elected upper chamber as a potential steppingstone beyond the marginal role the party and its historical progenitor, the Liberals, have played in British politics since the 1930s.
(T)he Conservatives’ push to change the electoral rules to bring parliamentary constituencies closer to a nationwide norm in terms of overall voter numbers, from the present system that requires many more votes to win a Conservative seat, on average, than a Labour one.
The change was one that political experts saw as capable of delivering 20 or more seats to the Conservatives at the cost of the opposition Labour Party, a potentially decisive margin in a close contest.
The proposed changes in the House of Lords would have nearly cut in half the size of the upper chamber, from its present membership of 826 to 450, and made 80 percent of the body elective by 2025, with one-third of its elected membership chosen at each of three successive general elections beginning in 2015.
Instead of the current practice of peers gaining appointment on the recommendation of the prime minister or other political leaders, 360 of the 450 House of Lords’ members would have to compete for seats in regional elections. Proportional voting rules for the contests would have favored smaller parties like the Liberal Democrats more than the current system used in elections to the House of Commons.
The abandonment of the reform package has been a deep personal blow to Mr. Clegg, exposing him ever more starkly as a man caught between a strong commitment to sustaining the coalition until the election and a gathering revolt among a powerful bloc of Liberal Democrats who have come to regard the partnership with the Conservatives as dragging them away from their core political beliefs on social issues like education, health, immigration and justice.