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.