Tim Farron: LibDems ready to sabotage a key plank of the coalition deal

From this morning’s Independent:

Liberal Democrat MPs are prepared to sabotage a key plank of the Coalition agreement unless rebellious Conservative backbenchers back down and support a fully elected House of Lord’s, the party’s president suggested yesterday.

Tim Farron told The Independent that the Liberal Democrats would find it impossible to back Tory proposals to reduce the number of MPs is the House of Commons unless Conservative MPs backed his party’s plan for a fully elected second chamber.

The full story is here.

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31 Comments

  • We should never have been anywhere close to accepting a reduction of numbers in the House of Commons anyway.

    I still think to have two democratic houses is undesirable. We should aspire to having the best people for the job of non-partisan scrutiny in the House of Lords. Democracy won’t give us that. Neither will the status quo. We should be discussing other alternatives not going all out for a fully elected chamber.

  • Reduction in number of MPs should be tied to reduction in number of ministers. We need to reduce the payroll vote; the *proportion* of MPs with government or opposition portfolios needs to be reduced.

  • I still fundamentally disagree with reducing the numbers of MPs. If we want a House of Commons which is genuinely reflective of the UK population, and where an MP is able to properly represent his or her constituents, then we shouldn’t have even been considering what was simply a knee-jerk reaction to the expenses issue.

  • “If we want a House of Commons which is genuinely reflective of the UK population, and where an MP is able to properly represent his or her constituents, then we shouldn’t have even been considering what was simply a knee-jerk reaction to the expenses issue.”

    That was what I thought before, but then it was pointed out to me that reducing the number of MPs had been Lib Dem policy for yonks, which makes this threat look rather odd.

  • What was the LD promise on reducing the number of MPs in its manifesto?

  • Reducing the number of MP’s has nothing to do with the expenses scandal. That’s just Cameron’s cover story. It’s purely to do with the fact that Tory support tends to cluster geographically which is a relative disadvantage under FPTP. Tory boffins figure reducing the number of constituencies and redrawing the boundaries will optimise the ratio of Tory votes to Tory seats.

  • HF
    “Change politics and abolish safe seats by introducing a fair, more proportional voting system for MPs. Our preferred Single Transferable Vote system gives people the choice between candidates as well as parties. Under the new system, we will be able to reduce the number of MPs by 150.”
    Pretty clear the promise to reduce MP’s was tied to the introduction of STV or some other form of PR. As we are not moving to STV I don’t think you have a point.

  • “Pretty clear the promise to reduce MP’s was tied to the introduction of STV or some other form of PR.”

    Oh right. The old “We only meant that if X, Y and Z” defence. Funnily enough, no one came up with that one previously ,when I was criticising it as a silly policy and it wasn’t being used as a bargaining chip in some tedious intra-coalition manoeuvring.

  • David Allen 21st Apr '12 - 2:02pm

    So we’re going to take on the Tories over yet another electoral / constitutional issue, which is mainly of interest to politicians. This is not going to make up for failing to fight them over tuition fees, the NHS and the economy, which are the issues the public actually care about.

    Rather the reverse. It helps to establish the Lib Dems, in the public mind, as a bunch of anoraks and amateur lawyers. The sort of people who are forever trying to rewrite the rules of the game, because the way it is played now, they lose.

  • Paul Walter 21st Apr '12 - 2:44pm

    @David Allen The alternative being to resile from a course of action stipulated in most Liberal/Liberal Democrat manifestos for decades.

  • There is no requirement for the number of MP’s which we have when further devolution takes place.

    400 is quite sufficent.

  • cogload

    I keep hearing this, we have too many MPs argument and I have yet ton have an answer to the simple question – why?

    I think that a reduction in MPs should only be considered when coupled with an overall constitutional review such as a decision on the second chamber and what system we use to elect our representatives.

  • Malcolm Todd 21st Apr '12 - 11:31pm

    I’d rather see 1200 MPs, on half the salary/expenses.

    @Chris
    “Pretty clear the promise to reduce MP’s was tied to the introduction of STV or some other form of PR.”
    Oh right. The old “We only meant that if X, Y and Z” defence.

    The sentence quoted from the manifesto by AndrewR was “Under the new system, we will be able to reduce the number of MPs by 150.” That’s not a post-facto justification for a change of position, it’s a clearly stated precondition. (Not to say it would be right even so, but that’s another issue.)

  • Tony Greaves 22nd Apr '12 - 12:32am

    Looks to me like there is the basis for a rather odd deal here between backbenchers in both parties.

    Tony Greaves

  • In all the comments above, not one person has put forward an argument, let alone a convincing argument, for reducing the number of MPs. Such a move would clearly make it more difficult for MPs to fully represent the concerns of their constituents. So why do it?

  • “The sentence quoted from the manifesto by AndrewR was “Under the new system, we will be able to reduce the number of MPs by 150.” That’s not a post-facto justification for a change of position, it’s a clearly stated precondition. (Not to say it would be right even so, but that’s another issue.)”

    That’s true in relation to that specific manifesto commitment, but reducing the number of MPs has been party policy since 1997 at least.

    In particular, Nick Clegg made a lot of noise about reducing the number of MPs at the time of the expenses scandal. Are you saying that was tied to the introduction of PR? That people should have understood the Lib Dems would not support a reduction in the number of MPs unless the electoral system was reformed? I don’t believe one in a hundred of the electorate understood it in that way.

    I don’t think this kind of sophistry does the party any good at all. It smacks of a dodgy salesman telling people they should have read the small print.

  • We are constantly told by the Tories that boundary changes are absolutely essential to create equivalence of constituencies in terms of numbers. Tim Farron’s threat, that the Liberal Democrats will remove support for boundary changes if there is not legislation for an elected House of Lords, proves what we have known all along: the boundary changes are merely a sine qua non for Lib Dem concessions within the coalition. The boundary changes are not necessary at all, except to the Tories who can expect to take additional seats if they go through. This gerrymandering and the omnishambles created by the Lib Dems and the Tories clearly demonstrates why coalition government should be deprecated. A handful of Right Wing Tories know this, which is why they are determined to break the coalition using, as their justification, Lords Reform . At the end of this coalition the Lib Dems will have failed to get AV; failed to get House of Lords reform; lost thousands of council seats and the respect of the British People. Been worth it, has it?

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd Apr '12 - 3:49pm

    Tony Greaves

    Looks to me like there is the basis for a rather odd deal here between backbenchers in both parties.

    It’s bcoming increasingly clear that the coalition needs to split three ways with the “economic liberals” in both parties forming their own party, as they seem to have more in common with each other than they do with what their parties traditionally stood for.

  • The argument for reducing the number of MPs is linked to voting reform in the Manifesto, but really can only be justified where there has been devolution of powers to Welsh/Scottish or Regional Govt, ie there will be less for those MPs to do for their electorates, so the constituencies can consequently be much larger.

  • Chris

    The UK actually has quite poor representation per capita when compared to other countries when you take into account all the levels.

    I see no problem with reducing MP numbers if there is a robust local, regional and national representative framework

    At the moment I have a councillor in a large ward who is the member of a council that represents over 300000 constituents, followed by an MP and then an MEP (and what does he do?)

    Just reducing the number of MPs whilst retaining FPTP is just nonsensical – typical that Clegg supports it.

  • bazzasc

    Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying I think it’s a good idea; I just think it’s rather odd that this is being portrayed as a Lib Dem threat to withdraw support for a Tory policy, when it’s a Lib Dem policy too!

  • David Allen 22nd Apr '12 - 5:06pm

    Paul Walter said:

    “@David Allen The alternative being to resile from a course of action stipulated in most Liberal/Liberal Democrat manifestos for decades.”

    Yes, for decades we have put HoL reform somewhere low on our priority list. It would be one thing to pursue it in the context of a government which had already tackled the bread-and-butter issues effectively. It is quite another thing to prioritise it in the context of a coalition government where we have lost most of the arguments, and then picked on this one as, bizarrely, the one we demand we must win.

  • David Allen 22nd Apr '12 - 5:14pm

    “Never give a sucker an even break”.

    “Never think you can’t sell another pup to the sucker who bought the first one”.

    You can just see it, can’t you? Nice Mr Cameron says he does not want a referedum on HoL reform. We can trust him on referendums. Except that sadly, overwhelming pressure from his backbenchers, Ed Miliband, Uncle Tom Cobley and all might just somehow eventually force Mr Cameron to change his mind. So we have a referendum.

    Then along comes Tory Central Office with a glossy well funded campaign about how it’s only Papua New Guinea would ever think of having two elected chambers (and that US gridlock could be heading our way). Hey presto, Lib Dems lose another referendum. Hereditary peers are safe for a generation. and we don’t half end up looking silly.

  • There is a bit of a quandary here in that the coalition agreement set up a committee to bring forward proposals. One of these is likely to be a call for a referendum. Clegg is anti this and has stated it is not needed (a logical argument considering main party manifesto’s). However, Tory dissenters can then quite legitimately say the government is cherry picking the bits they like and say the want the recommendations implemented in full or they will withdraw support.

    This leaves a choice of backbench rebellion, no doubt supported by stay away Labour MP’s, or holding a referendum which may be lost. I would choose the referendum every time. It calls the Tories bluff, and is far less contentious then AV.

  • Alex Macfie 23rd Apr '12 - 2:55pm

    and then an MEP (and what does he do?)

    quite a lot more than you probably realise (the EP is more powerful than most national legislatures; Chris Davies has said that he has been able to have much more of an impact as an MEP than he could ever have had as an MP). But that’s a whole ‘nother issue..

  • As Clegg** promised, on sunday, not to sabotage any’ coalition planks’, this appears to be yet another non-story.

    **At least that’s what I thought he said. However, with Clegg, one can never be sure; every time I listen to him I’m reminded of the famous line, “Whose word no-one relies on” (John Wilmot)

  • Jayne Mansfield 24th Apr '12 - 1:18pm

    If this is a taste of coalition politics , I hope that we will never have another coalition.

    May I assume that the Liberals will not enter into coalition with Labour if Labour win the largest number of seats but no overall majority at the next election?

    Oceana, Eurasia, Eastasia. Which party are those of us who thought that we knew what we were voting for, to vote for at the next election?

  • Jayne MansfieldApr 24 – 1:18 pm…………..those of us who thought that we knew what we were voting for………………

    We knew what we were voting for; it’s our leadership who forgot!

  • How is it possible to improve the breadth of experience of those in the HoL and HoC? People such as Daphne Park , Baroness Park of Monmouth , a former SOE and SIS officer brought the type of experience which is completely lacking in modern day politics. The reality is that most politicians are middle class arts graduates with no experience of industry, running their own business, farming , fishing, Armed Forces and or working overseas , particularly in the fast growing markets.

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