Andrew Grice: As soon as Clegg learnt the whips had failed, he knew he had to accept the inevitable

A chaotic day that left the Coalition scarred

Share
Related Topics

When David Cameron and Nick Clegg met alone in the Prime Minister's small Downing Street "den" at 11am yesterday after the Cabinet's weekly meeting, the PM had bad news for his deputy.

Conservative whips reported that the backbench rebellion against Mr Clegg's planned reforms of the House of Lords was growing ahead of a critical vote due last night. The usual "threats and promises" of the whips were not working. The rebels had mounted a highly organised operation and, as one Tory aide put it, "they had safety in numbers".

Mr Cameron said there was no option but to delay the crunch vote until the autumn, to give him more time to win round the dissidents. Mr Clegg was reluctant to agree. His instinct was to go down fighting. The two men agreed to maintain regular contact during the day.

Answering MPs' questions at 2.30pm yesterday, Mr Clegg conceded the Lords Bill was "unlikely to progress" without a timetable motion. It appeared that he intended to press on with the scheduled vote. But behind Mr Clegg's back, rumours spread among Tory MPs that the vote would be shelved and the rebels prepared to celebrate. After leaving the Commons chamber, Mr Clegg was in contact with Mr Cameron again. The numbers were still bleak and this time the Liberal Democrat leader accepted the inevitable. The climbdown was announced to MPs by Sir George Young, the Commons Leader, an hour later.

Where does this leave the Coalition? Perhaps in a less battered state than if it had suffered an embarrassing defeat. But the run-up to the vote-that-never-was has left scars. Mr Cameron was irritated by what his allies describe as "amateurish" and "immature" Liberal Democrat negotiating tactics. He was livid that his Coalition partners portrayed the planned vote as a test of his leadership, complained that their very public campaign merely fuelled the Tory rebellion.

Many Tories were angry when Richard Reeves, Mr Clegg's departing director of strategy, told The Independent the "consequences" of a defeat on the timetable motion were likely to include new parliamentary boundaries that would benefit the Tories by up to 20 seats.

Even without an embarrassing defeat, there are still "consequences" for the Coalition from an episode that will leave a bitter taste on both sides. The Coalition will not break up; even the most ardent Liberal Democrat supporters of Lords reform admit it would look mad to walk out over an issue that leaves most voters cold.

But the Coalition has entered a new, more difficult phase. So have relations between Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg. "They are no longer the two grown-ups who sit down and settle the rows between their squabbling kids," one Tory insider said. "The fizz has gone out of their relationship."

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Full Stack Developer (.NET 4.0, ASP.NET, MVC, Ajax, WCF,SQL)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Full Stack ...

AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - Investment Management

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...

Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pillar 1, 2 & 3) Insurance

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pilla...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jihadist militants leading away captured Iraqi soldiers in Tikrit, Iraq, in June  

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Robert Fisk
India's philosopher, environmental activist, author and eco feminist Vandana Shiva arrives to give a press conference focused on genetically modified seeds on October 10, 2012  

Meet Vandana Shiva: The deserving heir to Mahatma Ghandi's legacy

Peter Popham
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn