Coalition in unchartered waters as Nick Clegg vows to vote against Coalition policy in revenge for House of Lords reform failure

 

Nick Clegg moved the Government into uncharted political waters today by vowing to vote against agreed Coalition policy in revenge for David Cameron’s failure to deliver on House of Lords reform.

Mr Clegg confirmed that he and all other Liberal Democrat ministers would vote down legislation to cut the number of MPs in the House of Commons to 600 – a move that makes it significantly less likely that the Tories will be able to win an outright majority at next election.

Normally if a minister defied the Government whip they would be forced to resign. But faced with the prospect of collapsing the Government Downing Street last night appeared to accept mass Lib Dem rebellion on boundary changes to avoid the prospect of early elections.

Privately some senior Liberal Democrats are not unhappy at the outcome – even if it means loosing Lords reform. The party stood to lose up to 14 of their 57 MPs as a result of the boundary changes and feared that a protracted and acrimonious row over House of Lords reform at time of economic crisis would play badly with voters.

“Only some of our more intellectually isolated supporters really cared that much about Lords reform,” said one. “Personally I’m cracking open a small bottle of champagne.”

Conservative backbenchers – whose rebellion over Lords reform led to yesterday’s announcement and would proportionally lose far fewer seats as a consequence of boundary changes - were less sanguine.

“Apart from keeping ministers in office, what is the Coalition now for?” asked the Tory MP Douglas Carswell.

“What we need is a new Coalition agreement which is not done in a rush by a clique and that can be democratically agreed by our party conferences.”

Another Tory MP added: “This will go down like a lead balloon. Nick Clegg is on the record supporting boundary changes and now he’s suddenly changed his mind because he hasn’t got House of Lords Reform. He’s basically throwing his toys out of the pram.”

In a press conference formally announcing the end of legislation to create an elected second chamber Mr Clegg said that he had been prepared to put the changes to a referendum.

But this offer was blocked by Mr Cameron because the deal would also have delayed boundary changes from coming into force until 2020.

Mr Clegg said as a consequence the Lib Dems had no choice but to oppose boundary changes – laying the blame firmly at the door of Conservative backbenchers who defied to whip to oppose Lords reform.

“The Conservative party is not honouring the commitment to Lords reform and, as a result, part of our contract has now been broken,” he said.

“Clearly I cannot permit a situation where Conservative rebels can pick and choose the parts of the contract they like, while Liberal Democrat MPs are bound to the entire agreement.

“Coalition works on mutual respect; it is a reciprocal arrangement, a two-way street. So I have told the Prime Minister that when, in due course, parliament votes on boundary changes for the 2015 election I will be instructing my party to oppose them.”

But Mr Clegg insisted that the move did not put the Coalition under threat as both parties were committed to the wider programme of Government.

“The loadstar in a Coalition is mutual respect, reciprocity and an ability to work professionally with each other whatever the bumps and scrapes over the passage of time.

“I am confident that there are really big important things for us to get on – all of which drives us together.

“At the top of this Government there is a degree of grown up trust and respect which binds us together.”

He added that they would look to fill the legislative gap left by the failure of House of Lords reform with new legislation on banking, the economy and social care.

“Any legislation that can create growth, generate jobs, particularly for young people out of work is a real priority for me,” he said.

“I personally have also felt we should go further and faster to deliver a properly funded system of social care for the elderly. That’s maybe something we can give an extra push to.

I think there will be no shortage of ideas.”

Mr Clegg added that he believed that House of Lords reform would eventually happen – but said, until it did, he unlike other senior politicians would not take up a seat.

“It is totally out of date, indefensible but will change. It simply cannot carry on – it has just not happened this time.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks
tv

Regular cast member Ste Hay, played by Kieron Richardson, is about to test TV boundaries

Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
techPerils of 'text neck' revealed
News
i100
News
Stonewall CEO Ruth Hunt
peopleStonewall boss says many fear it could ruin their careers
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

Argyll Scott International: FP&A Manager Supply Chain

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Argyll Scott is recruiting for a Permane...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property NQ+

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: COMMERCIAL PROPERTY SOLI...

Argyll Scott International: Retail Commercial Finance Analyst

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Due to further expansion, a leading inte...

Langley James : Senior Technician; Promotion & Training Opp; Borough; upto £32k

£27000 - £32000 per annum + training: Langley James : Senior Technician; Promo...

Day In a Page

Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines
Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?

What are Jaden and Willow on about?

Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?
Fridge gate: How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces

Cold war

How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces
Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

From dogs in cars to online etiquette, while away a few minutes in peace with one of these humorous, original and occasionally educational tomes
Malky Mackay appointed Wigan manager: Three texts keep Scot’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

Three texts keep Mackay’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

New Wigan manager said all the right things - but until the FA’s verdict is delivered he is still on probation, says Ian Herbert
Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

‘O, Louis’ is the plaintive title of a biography about the Dutchman. Ian Herbert looks at what it tells us about the Manchester United manager
Isis in Iraq: Baghdad hails the retaking of the Baiji oil refinery as the start of the long fightback against the Islamist militants

Isis takes a big step back

Baghdad hails the retaking of the Baiji oil refinery as the start of the long fightback against the Islamist militants
Bill Cosby: America’s beloved TV ‘dad’ or serial rapist?

Bill Cosby: America’s beloved TV ‘dad’ or serial rapist?

Ukip silk bow ties, Green Party T-shirts, and 'Iron Baby' romper suits: How to shop politically

How to shop politically

Ukip silk bow ties, Green Party T-shirts, and 'Iron Baby' romper suits
The science of sex: What happens when science meets erotica

Sex on the brain

Fetishes, dominatrixes, kinks and erotica. They are subjects that should get the crowds flocking to a new exhibition at the Wellcome Collection