Clegg will look 'petulant' unless he backs down, warns Lord Steel

Former Lib Dem leader says the Deputy PM's tactics on Lords reform are a 'mistake'

Nick Clegg was last night warned by the former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Steel that he risked looking "petulant" by refusing to back more limited House of Lords reform in the wake of his failure to achieve a democratically elected second chamber.

Amid deep Coalition tensions, the Deputy Prime Minister also came under pressure from David Cameron who insisted he would persist with moves to cut the number of parliamentary constituencies – despite the Liberal Democrats saying they would wreck the plans in response to the Tories blocking Lords reform.

Mr Clegg made clear on Monday he had no intention of supporting what he described as "House of Lords reform-lite" which he dismissed "wheeze" to "dignify an illegitimate house". But in an interview with The Independent, Lord Steel criticised his approach as a "mistake" which would impede attempts to improve the governance of the second chamber. Lord Steel is currently promoting a Bill, already passed by the Lords, which would facilitate a voluntary retirement scheme, remove non-attenders and peers who have been imprisoned. It is due to be debated in the House of Commons in its next session – and with Government support could be strengthened further.

Speaking yesterday, Lord Steel said he was "disappointed" by the Deputy Prime Minister's assertion that this support was unlikely to be forthcoming. "I think it is a mistake to walk away from House of Lords reform altogether because of the failure to ensure an elected second chamber.

"It appears to be sending the message that if I can't get my own way I won't do anything. That is not credible and makes you look petulant. I don't think Nick Clegg is petulant and I hope that he will consider what we can do now, short of elections, to tidy up the mess of the existing system."

Lord Steel added that, if it had Government support, his Bill could go much further. "If the Government were so minded [we could introduce] either a fixed retirement age at the end of each parliament or a fixed 15-year term, either of which would end membership of parliament for life and get the numbers in the Lords down to below the numbers in the Commons. They could also bring an end to entry to parliament by heredity by abandoning the by-elections.

"All of these are obtainable measures with which the Government could fill now available legislative time, rather than walk away from this issue with nothing."

But last night Liberal Democrat sources indicated that they were unlikely to throw their support behind their former leader's suggestions. "David Steel has not won himself many friends by pushing a Bill which he knows is against party policy," said one. "Our position is very clear. We are not interested in perpetuating an unelected, undemocratic second chamber or passing measures that would seem to legitimise that."

Many Tories are livid that Mr Clegg has vowed to oppose redrawing of boundaries in apparent retribution for the demise of the Lords reform plans.

Mr Cameron yesterday threw down a challenge to his Liberal Democrat deputy by signalling his determination to force a Commons vote on redrawing parliamentary boundaries. His insistence means Liberal Democrat ministers will be forced to vote against the moves, highlighting Coalition tensions. But it would also allow the Tories to argue in a future election that the Liberal Democrats sided with Labour out of self-interest to block boundary changes.

Hold on to your seats? MPs threatened by boundary changes

Nadine Dorries (Con, Mid-Bedfordshire)

There would have been few tears shed by Downing Street over the departure of Ms Dorries, the most vocal of Mr Cameron's Tory critics, after her seat vanished.

Danny Alexander (Lib Dem, Inverness, Nairn Badenoch & Strathspey)

The Chief Secretary's vast constituency was to have been absorbed into a vast Highland seat, setting up a battle with former leader Charles Kennedy for the party's nomination.

Priti Patel (Con, Witham)

A rising star of the right, Ms Patel had been facing a search for a new constituency after her Essex seat was set to be merged with Braintree.

Liam Byrne (Lab, Birmingham Hodge Hill)

Birmingham had been due to lose one of its 10 seats – and the former Cabinet minister had looked most likely to be looking for a new berth.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game