by Gary J
Wed Aug 8th, 2012 at 03:47:03 AM EST
I do not think that the events of today [Aug 6] will immediately end the coalition. They may however be the start of a slow loosening of ties, which may break up the coalition towards the end of next year.
Nick Clegg has today made a statement confirming that House of Lords reform is to be dropped, due to the opposition of Conservative backbenchers and the opportunism of Labour.
The failure of Conservatives to support House of Lords reform is condemned as a breach of the coalition agreement. As a result Liberal Democrat MPs (including ministers) will vote against the implementation of the Parliamentary boundary review. The boundary commissions are due to report by October 2013, so the vote on the Orders in Council to give legal effect to the changes would be expected to take place in late 2013 or early 2014.
If a majority of the House of Commons votes against the boundary changes, the existing boundaries will be left unchanged. This did happen once before. In the late 1960s the Labour government did not want to implement a boundary review. Home Secretary, James Callaghan, complied with the legal obligation to present the Orders in Council for Parliamentary approval, but asked Labour MPs to vote against. The 1970 election was held on the boundaries in force since 1955, with the new boundaries finally being introduced by the Heath government, with effect from the February 1974 general election.
Continued after the fold.
front-paged by afew
The Liberal Democrats proposed a compromise, which David Cameron has rejected.
Throughout this process my aim has always been too honour the Coalition Agreement in full - no more, no less. I stood ready - and stand ready - to deliver reforms that are controversial for my party because that is part of a wider, reciprocal arrangement.
That is why, for instance, in a last ditch attempt to keep both sides of the bargain intact, I suggested a solution that would have allowed us to progress with both reforms: a referendum on Lords Reform on election day in 2015, with first elections to the Lords taking place in 2020, while deferring boundary changes to 2020 too.
That would have been in keeping with the Coalition Agreement - in which neither policy had a set timetable. But this offer was not accepted.
So we must now restore balance to the Coalition Agreement, allowing us to draw a line under these events and get on with the rest of our Programme for Government.
I can think of only one precedent, in the last century, for ministers voting against the policy of the majority of the cabinet but remaining in office. That was the so called "agreement to differ" in 1931. This allowed the National government to introduce protection, with the pro-free trade Liberal ministers opposing the policy.
It remains to be seen if Conservative ministers will be prepared to agree to a similar "agreement to differ" in this case. In 1931 the Tories knew the protection policy would pass, whatever the Liberals did. In the present case the Conservative policy would be blocked by Liberal Democrat votes.
It also remains to be seen what the voters will make of Lib Dems accepting economic and other policies such as NHS reform, whilst causing a major row over constitutional issues.