Cameron ditches House of Lords reform, and it’s going to play havoc with the Coalition
Published: 13:06 BST, 3 August 2012 | Updated: 13:41 BST, 3 August 2012
Scrapped: David Cameron is going to ditch House of Lords reform
By Kirsty Walker
At a time when the country is gripped with Olympic fever, few ordinary people will be interested in the latest developments on House of Lords reform and boundary commission changes.
But the news today that David Cameron is going to ditch House of Lords reform is politically significant and has the potential to rip apart the Coalition.
The Prime Minister is expected to make the announcement next week after failing to persuade up to 91 Tory rebels to back reforms which would be acceptable to the Liberal Democrats.
The decision will enrage the Lib Dem high command who have repeatedly warned the Tories, publicly and privately, that there will be ‘consequences’ if House of Lords reform is dumped.
Next week’s announcement will be seen as the latest humiliating blow for leader Nick Clegg and will leave him with next to nothing to show for the last two years of power-sharing with the Conservatives.
Senior Liberal Democrats point out that they have kept to their side of the coalition deal on highly contentious reforms of the NHS, tuition fees and welfare and expect the Tories to keep theirs.
Sources say it will be ‘very serious’ if House of Lords reform is dumped and the Lib Dems will respond by blocking boundary changes which could boost the Tories by as many as 20 seats at the next General Election.
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But senior Tories say Mr Cameron has no intention of backing down over boundaries and will press ahead with the changes – which they point out that the Lib Dems have already backed in the Commons.
This leaves the ball firmly back in Mr Clegg’s court. If the Liberals fail to carry out their threats over boundaries, they will be left with no bargaining power in the Coalition.
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If the Libs exact public revenge over the Lords by blocking boundary changes, it would signal the end of the coalition as the Lib Dem frontbench would have to vote against the measures in the Commons.
The decision to dump House of Lords reform also leaves the Government with a legislative hole, which is expected to be filled with plans to boost jobs.
Either way, restless Liberal Democrats will be enraged to see another of their coalition prizes scuppered by backbench Tory MPs. In return, rebellious Tories will be further emboldened by their House of Lords victory.
All this makes for a very turbulent time for the coalition. Expect severe recriminations when the political parties meet for their annual conferences over the coming months.