++ Clegg to announce Lords reform sunk; Tory rebels defeat Cameron; first breach of Coalition Agreement.

The Guardian reports tonight:

Nick Clegg is expected to announce next week he has been forced to abandon Lords reform in the face of implacable Conservative backbench opposition that David Cameron has been unable to overcome. … Clegg has to decide whether to respond to the Lords rebuff by insisting legislation designed to cut the number of MPs to 600 should be abandoned. The change is being promoted by Cameron as a way of cutting the cost of politics and equalising the electoral size of constituencies.

Lord Rennard, the Liberal Democrat peer and former party chief executive, denied the reverse on Lords reform would threaten the coalition’s existence, but said the case for reducing boundaries had been weakened. Writing on the Guardian website, he suggests: “If the Lords is not to be given more legitimacy, then the case for reducing the number of MPs (and increasing the proportion of the payroll vote in the Commons) will also be weakened.” …

It was being stressed by Lib Dems that they had stuck to their guns in negotiations with Cameron and refused to accept a diluted alternative such as reducing the number of hereditary peers.

Lib Dem sources underscored the importance of Cameron’s failure to deliver, saying it would be the first time the two parties had totally failed to implement a central commitment of the coalition agreement.

David Laws, the former Treasury chief secretary, has already said there would be a chain reaction if Lords reform was not delivered by Cameron.

The writing has been on the wall for some time. Though the Tories have been publicly committed to Lords reform for the past three elections, it is clear few of their MPs share their leader’s view.

Meanwhile, Labour — who have been officially committed to Lords reform for decades but consistently failed to vote for it, whether in government or opposition — have, inevitably if perversely, preferred watching the Coalition squirm rather than trying to drive a wedge between the two parties while securing progressive reform.

This is the first time either one of the Coalition parties has blocked a key policy within the Coalition Agreement. David Laws’ warning of a ‘chain reaction’ is real. The Coalition won’t fall as a result of Lords reform ending, as I explained here. But it is likely now to become more transactional, with Lib Dem MPs able to turn around and tell Tory MPs “You started it” if there are any Coalition Agreement measures they now wish to vote against.

That will be entirely understandable. But it won’t make for good government, and it won’t do anything for the reputation of pluralist politics either.

This is a critical time both for the Government and the Lib Dems. As I wrote a few weeks ago, it is crucial we re-boot and find a common cause we can unite behind in the weeks and months ahead. We must now re-focus on the economy, reforming capitalism to work for the people, and providing effective economic leadership for the rest of this parliament.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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55 Comments

  • I would imagine the Conservatives now expect to lose the boundary changes; for LibDems to vote them through in the circumstances (if true) would be the ultimate humiliation.

  • Elliot Bidgood 3rd Aug '12 - 9:15pm

    “Meanwhile, Labour — who have been officially committed to Lords reform for decades but consistently failed to vote for it, whether in government or opposition — have, inevitably if perversely, preferred watching the Coalition squirm rather than trying to drive a wedge between the two parties while securing progressive reform.”

    For the 1,000th time, Labour’s manifesto committed the party to:
    a) a fully-elected chamber
    b) a referendum on the matter
    Don’t believe me? Read it yourself:

    “We will ensure that the hereditary principle is removed from the House of Lords.
    Further democratic reform to create a fully elected Second Chamber will then be achieved
    in stages. At the end of the next Parliament one third of the House of Lords will be elected; a further one third of members will be elected at the general election after that. Until the final stage, the representation of all groups should be maintained in equal proportions to now. We will consult widely on these proposals, and on an open-list proportional representation electoral system for the Second Chamber, before putting them to the people in a referendum.” http://www2.labour.org.uk/uploads/TheLabourPartyManifesto-2010.pdf (page 63)

    Even if Lib Dems regarded these as a political excuse on the part of Labour, why not call Labour’s bluff and promise them, thereby forcing Labour to take an absolute position and reveal its true intentions? Labour is not obligated to sacrifice manifesto commitments in order to bail out Nick Clegg when his coalition partners leave him high and dry, and if Clegg expected Labour to help, he should have negotiated. If these reports are true, he has only himself and the Conservatives to blame, no one else.

  • Not sure if this is technically possible given the House of Common’s rules of procedure but were it possible to introduce a motion of confidence in the government commending the government’s House of Lords reform measure that would give those “troublesome” Conservative back-benchers a straight choice, either: a) back the measure (thus undercutting their rebellion) or b) vote “no confidence” in their own government!

    At the point the Lib-Dems are free to walk away citing the unreasonableness of the Conservatives and, should it necessitate a general election, the Conservatives have a nightmare issue to defend on the hustings.

  • Mark Argent 3rd Aug '12 - 9:20pm

    If true, this is sad news: the proposals for reform are good ones.

    That said, it would be an interesting vintication of coalition government if House of Lords reform happened with the support of Lib Dems, Labour and *some* conservatives, which would be possible in a free vote.

    Making political capital out of a major setback seems a little tasteless, but this does give us an opportunity to make it clear to the electorate that the coalition is the working-together of two parties, rather than a merger, and might provide a way to ease the sense of our carrying the can for every unpopular thing the government does.

  • It just goes to show what the Lib Dems are up against when fighting the vested interests of the establishment. Labour have yet again failed the progressive test.

  • So the Conservative leadership proves itself unable to deliver on the coalition agreement. We shouldn’t be surprised. The Lib Dems, however, have dutifully marched into the division lobbies in support of policies they find unpalatable and which some think are damaging the party. No more.

    I hope the party will ignore the clarion voices that will, no doubt, now call for end of the the coalition. Instead, as Cameron has failed to honour his commitments, from now on the Lib Dems should not feel bound by the coalition agreement. Every piece of legislation should be debated, and supported or not, on it’s merits.

  • The problem with labour and the conservatives on this issue is that it’s like a retirement plan for ex ministers. It’s a damn shame. But it will happen eventually. I have to believe this, coz I believe in real democracy and I’m a republican.
    Sadly ending hereditary political privileges is not a big vote grabber.

  • Labour have always insisted on a referendum. As Elliot Bidgood pointed out above, this may merely be a pretext but it is in their manifesto.

    Why would any emotionally mature, politically savvy, adult think that Labour had a duty to vote against their own manifesto and assist the liberal democrats more than their own coalition partners in implementing their coalition agreement? Even if Labour did not have a commitment to holding a referendum on the issue, why are they being blamed for not aiding the lib dems? If the liberal democrats require labour’s assistance to implement any progressive legislation, why are they in a coalition with the Conservatives. It beggars belief that there are people here commenting who blame Labour for the failure of this bill more than their own treacherous coalition partners.

  • Another point to make is that the Lib Dems have utterly failed to make the case for the Lords reform they want. That doesn’t mean the Lords shouldn’t be reformed, or that most people wouldn’t support it being reformed, but the Lib Dems have been complacent in assuming that they should get their way just because reform is in the coalition agreement and appearing to suggest (and as if the position didn’t require an explanation) that any reform is better than no reform. That attitude has helped enable the Tory backbenchers to undermine the effort, just as it helped vested interests undermine AV, which was also a compromise rather than a long term goal.

  • Richard Dean 3rd Aug '12 - 11:45pm

    I say, come out of coalition immediately the announcement is made. It’s not going to get any better in the next three years, IMHO. The warfare between the Tories and LibDems will hamper efforts to address the real problems that the country faces, and both parties will lose the confidence of the electorate..That confidence is going to be absolutely vital if the country is to stay safe if and when things really get bad – which they will when the cuts kick in.

    It’s not really the first breach, it comes after a lot of bitter disagreements betwene the two parties. And it’s not as if any LibDem minister is fully able to implement LibDem policy.

    So come out immediately, and immediately explain to the electorate that it’s a pity to do this over a relatively minor issue, when the main task is to fix the economy, but the conservatives have shown they can’t be trusted and there’s no way the economy will be fixed like that. The electorate will understand. Maybe they will even give LibDems some respect. Also seek, at the earliest opportunity, a vote of no confidence in HMG in the House. And get campaigning now.

  • Alex Macfie 4th Aug '12 - 12:11am

    I think that representing natural communities is much more important than equalizing constituency sizes. In an single-member constituency system, the representation depends a lot more on WHERE the boundaries are drawn than on the constituency sizes, making the equality of constituencies practically irrelevant as far as I’m concerned. As for reduction in the number of MPs, I am asbsolutely against this unless it is accompanied by a reduction in the number of ministerial and shadow ministerial posts. I’m not sure it is actually possible to legislate for this. I do not think that we as the Liberal Democrats should be pushing through anything that would increase the proportion of the payroll vote.

  • “If the Tories had been allowed to get away with this breach of the Coalition Agreement, then they will keep on doing it.”

    You’ve lost me. In what sense aren’t the Tories being allowed to get away with it?

  • Simon Bamonte 4th Aug '12 - 12:38am

    We need out of this bastard coalition and we need out now.

    From day one the Tories have outmanoeuvred us and shown Clegg and co. to be completely naive and amateur. The Tories knew we had not had a shot at power for decades and used the eagerness of those at the top of our party to be “in power” to their advantage. They promised the electorate no top-down NHS reform, yet, somehow, convinced Lib Dems to drive this through against public opinion. It has been rumoured Clegg was offered the choice of dropping the NHS bill or Lords reform. He obviously chose Lords reform (cynics would say in the LD party interest) over the unpopular and unwanted NHS reform. And yet the Tories have now failed to do their duty to the coalition and vote in favour of reform of the HoL. Lib Dem MPs and peers have time and time again voted for policies which are almost beyond the pale for supposed liberals: we broke our tuition fees promises, we gave tax cuts to the mega-rich, the banks won’t see meaningful reform until 2019, Osbourne’s economic plans sure as hell are hurting, but they’re doing the opposite of working, and as Dispatches and Panorama confirmed this week, we’re supporting a cruel system that is treating the disabled as if they are sub-human. Apart from the pupil premium and tweaking the bottom rate of tax (which the Tories would have done in some form or other), we’ve gained nothing from this coalition. And yet, some people seem to think every failure of ours to stand up to the Tories and every time they have shafted us are somehow Labour’s fault. Too many Lib Dems are afraid to look into the mirror and realise that it isn’t everyone else’s fault all the time: those who have “led” our party lately have been utter failures in almost every way imaginable. Power is pointless if you are a) getting nothing out of it and b) enacting policies that your supporters are against. Power for power’s sake is the raison d’etre of the Tory party, not the Lib Dem party. Until we stop blaming Labour (or the electorate) for everything and realise it is actually the Tories and, yes, ourselves to blame, we will never recover.

    We will be hit hard at the next election…we could realistically see our MPs fit into two or three taxis. But the longer we support the illiberal and often cruel policies of this government, the lower our vote share will go. It may take us another 50 years to recover from a situation where we gave and gave and gave and received nothing in return from these duplicitous, entitled-to-rule Tories. Bevan was right all those years ago and he is right now: “I warn you that they [the Tories] have not changed, or if they have they are slightly worse than they were.”

    It’s time to get out of the coalition and find our soul (and heart) again and start working in the interests of our supporters and voters. We must leave the coalition and Clegg must go. A trusted and liked LD such as Vince or Charles Kennedy should take over the helm and begin the process of rebuilding. Anything else is prolonging the inevitable.

  • Simon Bamonte 4th Aug '12 - 12:57am

    @Richard Dean: “So come out immediately, and immediately explain to the electorate that it’s a pity to do this over a relatively minor issue, when the main task is to fix the economy, but the conservatives have shown they can’t be trusted and there’s no way the economy will be fixed like that.”

    I agree with your post almost entirely, but I would not describe this as a “minor issue”. It is actually a large issue which exposes the Tories as unable (or unwilling) to compromise, untrustworthy and incapable of working within a coalition. Again, it exposes their feelings of entitlement, arrogance and contempt for the idea of a more representative and egalitarian democracy. They have always been like this and it is tragic that it is taking our party close to electoral wipeout to learn this lesson. There will always be a large part of the Conservative party who supports the aristocracy, inherited wealth/privilege and an unelected chamber from which they can rule: it is, after all, what they do.

    A government which calls itself a coalition while only one party in said “coalition” benefits is not a coalition in my opinion. I want a more socially liberal and economically fair society without the authoritarianism currently running through many Labour MPs. I want a Lib Dem government, but that is not realistic at all right now so we must settle for a coalition with proper Lib Dem influence and benefit if we get the chance again. We’re not getting that and we never will from these Tories. If the future means future coalition with Labour, so be it. For all their faults and failings, they have done far more to reform the HoL on their own accord than the Tories ever have or ever will.

  • Nick Clegg’s role in government is to take responsibility for constitutional reform.

    AV is down the plughole, Lords reform buried and no sign of any chance of a resolution on party funding. All that’s left is the Tories’ boundary review.

    I joined the party largely because of Clegg, but I’m afraid I now have to question his competence.

  • @Colin Andersson

    Its not us screaming like headless chickens whenever the older half of society is asked to shoulder some of the burden. The Tories, being dependent on the grey vote, are the ones to look at there.

    You’re right though, most of the can is being carried by the under 30s generation. But where the government has really failed has been in the rising unemployment levels and the general lack of opportunity at all levels, not just degrees and graduates. The tuition fees thing is not good, but nor is it the major issue facing this generation. Short story is that from where I sit, the fact that I’m sitting on £30,000 of tuition fee loan as an issue takes a back seat to the problem of jobs. Had I a secure employment with a wage exceeding the £15,000-odd level, perhaps the prospect of paying my couple of quid a month back into the system would seem more of a problem. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? And from a voting intention point of view, its not Labour or the Tories who I see holding any of the answers to the real problems.

    Anyway, back to the subject of Lords Reform.

    This shouldn’t bring the government down as long as there is any other liberal reform we can secure in this Parliament. Personally, regarding the bargaining for what our price is going to be, I would say call off the boundary changes as a matter of course and then demand the political funding reforms as our price. Also, I wonder what happens to changes we’ve won so far like the equal marriage reform or the low income tax threshold changes if we leave.

    If however we find that Cameron’s leadership is so fragile that he can’t deliver his MPs’ votes on the party funding issue, then the coalition should end – its clear in that situation that the leadership of the Tory Party simply doesn’t lead and that therefore everything we’ve won is at risk regardless. We would be better off leaving with the observation that perhaps the Tory Party might consider electing a leader with whom we could negotiate with knowing that he or she commands the party’s loyalty. From there, confidence and supply? Or an early election? That would be in the hands of the new Tory leader.

    @everyone debating Labour’s role/culpability/virtue

    Labour need to be given the chance to take the progressive test, and this won’t come about by us making passive-aggressive comments about them, and certainly not by outright accusing them of being red Tories. Putting my personal views of that party aside for now, I think we need someone to talk to them on this issue in a diplomatic way. It would be a very good idea for Vince Cable to try having a talk with Miliband, since apparently they are at least on speaking terms these days. It seems to make sense that we try to get these reforms moving again by co-operating with the party who might yet be our coalition partner post-2015, especially if we sink the boundary changes.

    If they want a referendum, fine. We run a risk of losing it, but a much lesser risk of taking the blame if it fails. In that event Miliband looks sillier than us. Since we’ve already been forced to this by the Tories I’m not sure what we stand to lose there. And if it even gets as far as a referendum, we will have won a small victory against the Tory backbench.

  • Richard Dean. I totally agree.

  • Stop blaming Labour! You’re in government, if you can’t persuade your coalition partner to vote for your side of the coalition agreement then it is manifestly not the opposition’s fault but yours, and the tories.

    You seriously need to reshuffle the top of your party, Clegg’s specific remit as a minister within the coalition was to deliver electoral reform. He is the only minister who has failed to deliver a single coalition policy within his brief. Say what you like about Lansley and Gove, they might be destroying healthcare and education, but at least they are doing so in a way consistent with their principles and manifesto. Clegg has achieved nothing of note other than a ministerial salary.

  • “Personally, regarding the bargaining for what our price is going to be, I would say call off the boundary changes as a matter of course and then demand the political funding reforms as our price.”

    What makes you think the party is in a position to “demand a price”?

    You are not being asked to do anything, after all. You are simply being told that Cameron has decided not to proceed with Lords reform.

  • Martin Pierce 4th Aug '12 - 7:54am

    I kept the Clegg email to members from less than a month ago (July 10) as it seemed even at the time a masterpiece of Orwellianism, and I thought we’d reach this point in due course (just thought it might take a bit longer).

    Here’s what he said:

    “This evening we overwhelmingly won an historic vote on the Second Reading of the House of Lords Reform Bill – a Bill that will finish something our party started a century ago. This is a huge triumph for our party, and a clear mandate to deliver much needed reforms to the House of Lords.”

    And of course this is all in the context of announcing 2 years ago that this would be the greatest reforming Parliament since the 1832 Reform Act. Er….

    If Cameron then gets Clegg to make the announcement, it will be the final abject humiliation. Nick – at least force Dave to make the announcement and explain why we are not doing it!

    Clegg really does have to go. He reminds me somewhat of a First World War general – as a Party we are at the moment lions led by donkeys

  • Grammar Police 4th Aug '12 - 8:48am

    @Colin Andersson You won’t vote Lib Dem “after the tuition fees thing” – you mean after we failed to achieve our manifesto commitment to remove them (with 57 MPs) but after we reduced them massively for graduates that go on to earn low and middle incomes, whilst increasing them for the highest paid graduates.
    Well, good luck with voting Lab/Con if you think they’re going to improve things!

  • Grammar Police 4th Aug '12 - 8:50am

    As for the Labour apologists on here. Your party has no interest in democratic reform – and you know it – hopelessly split on AV; trying to claim that it’s okay to vote with the Conservative right on Lords reform because it’s not exactly the same as in your manifesto. We see your true colours. The sad thing for you, is you probably do too.

  • Elliot Bidgood 4th Aug '12 - 9:43am

    @GrammarPolice “As for the Labour apologists on here. Your party has no interest in democratic reform – and you know it – hopelessly split on AV; trying to claim that it’s okay to vote with the Conservative right on Lords reform because it’s not exactly the same as in your manifesto. We see your true colours. The sad thing for you, is you probably do too.”

    I wish more Labour politicians had backed AV, but a lot did (including Ed Miliband). Further, there’s no logic in saying a “divided” party “has no interest” in an issue, when that demonstrably shows half the party is in fact supportive for it.

    On Lords reform, again, Lib Dems cannot lecture Labour on a manifesto pledge. And as Rob argued above, even beyond the bill containing only 80% election and not containing a referendum, assuming Labour MPs have no grounds to voice concerns about any other part of the bill (e.g. length of terms, size of the chamber etc) is also unfair. You can’t have Tories and Lib Dems write a bill that fits their vision of what Lords reform looks like in consultation with each other, and then just expect Labour MPs to vote in favour as well without imput. This is reform of the second chamber that passes all of our laws we’re talking about here, it’s important to get it right, and it’s not particularly clear where Lib Dems get the idea that they can assert that literally any bill with the name “Lords reform” slapped on it is eminently fine and doesn’t need to be debated on its merits and impact. If you want to lecture about democracy, best you show some willingness to engage in democratic debate. Labour backed the bill on the Second Reading, but not on the programme motion, in order for more time to debate the specifics and make amendments. Moreover, if your argument is that since the Tories were unreliable and that Labour should have helped pass the bill, this simply makes it harder to explain why the bill was written in consultation with the Tories but with virtually none with Labour.

  • So our partners have reneged on Lords Reform. They also behaved badly on Proportional Representation. To keep the coalition sweet we should be demanding a sweetener. With redistribution of Westminster seats being in line as a retaliatory measure, is there not an opportunity here to salvage PR in some form. How does the party feel about conceding the reduction of seats or maybe reduce them further BUT turn the lost seats into “list” seats as in the Welsh Assembly ? The list system may not be everybody’s favoured form of PR but it works in Wales giving representation to groups of voters roughly approximate to their numbers where otherwise they might have none

  • Peter Watson 4th Aug '12 - 10:30am

    @Grammar Police
    “As for the Labour apologists on here. Your party has no interest in democratic reform – and you know it – hopelessly split on AV; trying to claim that it’s okay to vote with the Conservative right on Lords reform because it’s not exactly the same as in your manifesto.”
    Nick Clegg called AV a “grubby little compromise” and many of us LDs wanted a more proportional system than AV: only the tories were not split since they wanted no electoral reform at all.
    I think that you are missing the point made by many above: we cannot blame the Labour party for failing to completely endorse our proposals for Lords reform when we did not invite their involvement in developing those proposals, and the proposed measures do not go as far as their own preferences (100% elected second house – wsomething our own party has called for – with democratic support demonstrated by a referendum).

  • “With redistribution of Westminster seats being in line as a retaliatory measure, is there not an opportunity here to salvage PR in some form.”

    Of course not. The Tories wouldn’t consider introducing PR for Westminster elections. They would far rather stick to the present boundaries than do that.

  • To those conservative apologists who blame the Labour party for not allying with the lib-dems to support lords reform – that’s not, in fact, what happened.

    Labour voted against the timetabling amendment, this maling it possible for the bill to be ‘talked out’, but voted for the bill to go forward. They didn’t “Kill it”. And, if they had voted for the timetable, what would have been different than in the current situation? – David Cameron cannot deviler the votes of more than than a small majority of his party to deliver a bill that is in both the conservative manifesto, and the coalition agreement.

    The failure of the proposed Lords reform is more the responsibility of Conservative than Labour – what was proposed was a government bill where the conservatives comprise the overwhelming majority of the government. Labour may have had proposals for Lords reform in their manifesto, but they failed to get elected, and I say have very little obligation to vote unreservedly for a bill on Lords reform simply on the grounds that they had proposals on the same matter, which were wildly different, and failed to get into government with.

    My own position is an ex, and active, member 2003-2011 who might consider voting for a liberal party that considers liberalism more than just free-market and economic freedom. i.e. one withoud Clegg, Alexander or Laws anywhere near power. Until then, I hold my nose and vote labour every time.

  • James Sandbach 4th Aug '12 - 10:40am

    Extracting progressive constitutional reform from the Tory Party was always a blood out of stone project..I agree with many of Simon B’s points – the only lib dem policies the tories are actually supporting are the ones they agree with anyway (pupil premium and the tax threshold) – I doubt in practice that they will even deliver on gay marriage, that Bill has already been delayed by a year. They have been brilliant at using the machinary of Government to wrong-foot and befuddle lib dem Ministers’ projects..even banking reform has been watered down. The coalition journey to date has been as much tory bad faith to the lib dem’s good faith, but we – the much weaker and less numerate party – will be the ones to bear the electoral fallout

  • The fact is the Conservatives let the Lib Dems down. Labour are in opposition and you can’t realistically expect an opposition party to deliver your policies. Especially. when all that would have happened is that Nick Clegg would shave stood up and herald ed the result as a victory for The Coalition.
    Maybe consulting with Labour would have had some benefits, but it would have fractured the Coalition. In my opinion that would have been a good thing, but from the perspective of the Lib Dem leadership it would have been a political blunder.

  • Richard Dean 4th Aug '12 - 11:38am

    If this party is to come out of coalition and survive, it needs to do it on an issue that the electorate regard as vitally important, Constitutional reform is not such an issue, the electorate has already rejected one such attempt, and coming out on this basis would simply make LibDems into a laughing stock.

    The critical issue is the ability of the two parties to work cooperatively together to address the economic crisis. The behaviour of Tory backbenchers on this and other issues has brought this into question, The Lords reform debacle, though relatively unimportant, is a clear example showing that the parties cannot work together even on things they thought they agreed on. How much more dysfunctional would a coalition be on contentious issues like the economy?

    It would certainly be suicidal to block constituency reforms in response. If those reforms are good for the country, the electorate would see a party prepared to damage the country in silly pique. If they are not, why have the LibDems been supporting them so far?

    So the proper way forward is for the LibDems to come out of coalition if the Tories breach the agreement. The unpopularities in the opinion polls suggest that it would then be fair and appropriate to ask the country to give its verdict in a general election this autumn. That would also provide an opportunity for everyone to get serious about the hard times ahead.

  • We should start from the beginning. Make the LibDems case for constitutional reform including electoral reform that we know that will be best for the public to exercise choice, that is the Single transferable vote and a fully elected 2nd chamber.
    That earlier referendum on AV was not really valid for our program as it did not give the choice to switch to PR, Therefore did not produce a large turnout at the poll as AV was not really debated before the coalition, with so many undecided.
    More importantly, the debate really did not get off the ground with full media coverage debating of the issues The media was too occupied, because right at the same time the ruling oligarchs in power decided to give over the top coverage to a royal wedding. This really doesn’t matter to most people as under a monarchy there is no choice and no public debate who will be head of state.

  • The party needs to bring forward its draft manifesto for the next General Election, now, and start negotiating hard for what we want, publicising every reasonable proposal in it and making public how difficult the dinosaurs of the old parties are about any progressive move we try to make..
    But priority must be better communication with party members about what is actually going on, as I read with dropped jaw some of the interpretations that other commentators make each day.. where do they come from.?

  • Paul in Twickenham 4th Aug '12 - 12:55pm

    So the coalition is about nothing more than having a few Lib Dem MPs getting driven around in ministerial jags? When the Tories agree with our policy, the policy is enacted. Where the Tories disagree with our policy, nothing happens. All Tory policies get enacted. Quid pro quo has a whole new meaning now, doesn’t it?

  • @Chris

    “What makes you think the party is in a position to “demand a price”?”

    The fact that every poll currently being published indicates that an election held now would deliver a Labour-led government at the very least?

  • Richard Dean 4th Aug '12 - 2:04pm

    Demanding a price is just silly, Government is about working together to solve the country’s problems and improve people’s lives. It is about finding and implementing the best solutions, It is not a silly game of negotiation or chess.

  • “The fact that every poll currently being published indicates that an election held now would deliver a Labour-led government at the very least?”

    Well, in fact they indicate a Labour majority (they certainly don’t indicate a Lab/LD government, if that’s what you’re thinking). But if you take predictions based on the polls seriously, they also indicate severe losses for the Lib Dems. Threatening to force a general election would be a very high-risk strategy.

  • Daniel Jones 4th Aug '12 - 3:39pm

    Those who are saying that it is wrong to point the finger at Labour – please read what Sadiq Khan is blathering all over the news. Labour are blaming us for this failure, the only major party who voted en masse to see this delivered. Labour knew that not voting for the programme motion would risk this. And kudos to them for winning a political match, but I think that selling a bit more of their soul to do it is a pity. Though, it is said that a government can only ever be great against a good opposition – so maybe all this Labour mediocrity is actually a clever ruse!

  • @ Simon Bamonte 4th Aug 12.38

    Stands & applauses the best comment on the site !

  • Daniel Jones

    Well that is a surprise – Labour trying to make political capital at the expense of the Coalition!

    Labour are irrelevant to this – it is all about the Government internal politics. There would be no need for Labour votes if the Coalition agreement was adhered to.

    Yes, Labour could have voted with the LD for the Programme Motion but can you remind me what the LD attitude was to these motions during their time in Opposition?

    Politics is an often childish and hypocritical game played by all sides including the LD. In this case, as in many others, you have been thrashed by the Tories. They have concluded that you will never break the Coalition and they can do what they like without fear.

    If you want to get back some power I suggest you do the only thing left available – support a vote of No Confidence in Cameron as PM and force a General Election.. Withdrawing from the Coalition now will do you no good as you have already reached the point of no return, and would be seen both as useless and untrustworthy.

    Paul Barker, if he was here, believes the polls are all wrong and you would get at least the same as the 2010 election. The leadership also tells us that support is being underestimated. Give the people their voice if you genuinely believe it.

  • I meant to say ‘just withdrawing from the Coalition’

  • Fiona White 4th Aug '12 - 9:30pm

    A lot of the really contraversial and tough legislation has been put through in a rush which means that Lib Dems have very little left to bargain with. We have loyally backed coalition policies which made many of our members and MP’s very uncomfortable but we have recognised the reality of the political situation. Unfortunately, many Tories have never come to terms with the fact that they did not win the last election and they see no reason to back anything led by Lib Dems apart from some tax cuts which is part of their creed anyway. Am I angry ? Yes. Do I think that we should make it clear to Tories that failure to honour their responsibilities as a partner in a coalition has consequences? Yes. And do I think that to just roll over and play dead over this would be damaging to the Lib Dem party? Yes. Enough is enough.

  • Two points:
    1. Without electoral reform, reducing the number of seats worsens representation. It tends to average out the voting pattern and increases the tendency for disproportionate numbers of MPs. No Lords reform again weakens representation. So on democratic grounds, the number of MPs should not be decreased. In fact it would be better if numbers were increased. This does not mean that there should be measures to equalise the constituencies where possible.

    2. Is it possible to withdraw MPs from the government pay roll? Perhaps to reduce ministers to only 2 or 3 (or even none)? Lib Dem MPs would not be bound by cabinet solidarity and could ‘rebel’ more easily and certainly be free inside and out of parliament to speak freely. It seems to me that the number of Lib Dem MPs on the government pay roll is actually weakening the negotiating position.

  • David Allen 5th Aug '12 - 12:03am

    Richard Dean said:

    “I say, come out of coalition immediately the announcement is made.” but also “If this party is to come out of coalition and survive, it needs to do it on an issue that the electorate regard as vitally important, Constitutional reform is not such an issue”

    Simon Bamonte said:

    “We need out of this bastard coalition and we need out now.”

    Well, I agree with Simon, and I know both he and I have been shouting this from the rooftops for a very long time. Nevertheless, Richard has a point.

    We need to make it clear that this is not a huge issue in itself, it is just the last straw. We need to admit that we should have fought much harder for the NHS and against Osbornomics, and not just concentrated our efforts on constitutional reforms which – however valid – would also have been in our own selfish party interests. We need to accept that we got a lot wrong, and that we must now make fundamental changes in the way we do politics.

    Which must mean a new leader, mustn’t it?

  • If the boundary changes now don’t happen, for me this is the biggest silver lining coupled with the smallest cloud I’ve ever seen. The blue and red Tories were never going give us permanent kingmaker status in the Lords. Bring down the government over the dire economy, or Health or Education, not over this sideshow.

  • Steve Bradley 6th Aug '12 - 5:46pm

    Lords Reform is important to our party’s hardcore members, but the rest of the world doesn’t give a feck about it.

    I’d much rather see the Lib Dems cashing in their political chips in the coalition to deliver meaningful change on things that people/voters DO care about, rather than making the usual liberal mistake of focusing on geeky esoteric stuff that people don’t care about and won’t reward us at the ballot box for.

    Hopefully we can now focus on delivering stuff that people actually care about.

  • Cllr. Ron Beadle 6th Aug '12 - 7:09pm

    Dear Niall,

    I agree with everything you have said. Lib Dems who opposed the Coalition from the beginning (including those of us in ‘Liberal Left’) predicted the disasterous impact of its policies for the country and for our party. Supporters of the Coalition have argued however that this government would deliver economic growth and constitutional reform and that this justified the compromises we were having to make. Uh oh.

    Ron

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