Nick Clegg urges Lords reform unity

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Indy Politics

Nick Clegg attacked the political points-scoring of both sides of the vote reform referendum campaign today and appealed for unity over House of Lords reform.

The Deputy Prime Minister said he was determined to press ahead with moves towards electing the upper chamber despite the resounding public rejection of a change to the voting system.

And he denied the issue was a minority "obsession" for his party that should be abandoned in favour of concentrating on issues higher up voters' lists of priorities.

A draft bill will be published this month, setting out proposals for culling the remaining hereditary and appointed peers in favour of an elected body.

The electorate gave a damning verdict against a change in the way MPs are elected in last week's UK-wide vote - a long-term blow to the Lib Dems' long-held passion for electoral reform.

A bitter and highly-personalised campaign saw Tory and Lib Dem coalition colleagues clash publicly over the issue but Mr Clegg said he hoped for less argument over the Lords.

"The referendum campaign was characterised, some would say disfigured, by party politics and point scoring. It was not a particularly uplifting argument by either side of the debate.

"What lessons does one learn? It reinforces my view that where we can develop ideas together rather than everyone shouting at each other across the barricades, clearly it is best."

He said he had gone to "very considerable effort" to find agreement by talking to all parties in the committee drawing up the proposals for the reforms.

"I hope that desire to try to move forward as consensually as possible on something as constitutionally significant as that will be reflected and recognised in the draft bill we will be publishing shortly," he told the Commons political and constitutional reform committee.

Asked about criticisms from within his own party that he should not concentrate on issues that were more important to the party than the public, he said: "Things that are important are not always resonant. The fact that we as a country, as a national community, have been talking about this one way or another for a century or more suggests that it is not a preoccupation or an obsession for one party or one politician.

"I do not think that as a Government we should apologise, not only in this area, for proceeding with things that are important but might not be things that your constituents and mine will raise in our weekly surgeries."