Thursday, July 12, 2012


Picking the Bones out of the Coalition's Lords Rebellion

In my picture, are they waving hello or goodbye? Well, the House of Lords debate did not end with a shattered coalition as I thought it might, but it maybe inflicted huge damage which will only manifest itself later on. Today Martin Kettle does a good job of picking the bones out of the House of Lords rebellion. He harks back to 1977 when the Callaghan government tried to push through devolution. Lessons to be learned from that experience include:
"Put big constitutional reform on the agenda at the start of a parliament when authority is high, not halfway through, when authority is slipping away. Hold a referendum first, on the principle of the thing, so that MPs are cowed and rebels have less room to make mischief. Don't go to a referendum afterwards, when the vote becomes a verdict on the government not the reform. Nick Clegg should have learned from that".

How has the rebellion affected British politics?

1. The current plans for reforming the Lords are effectively dead. Cameron will attempt to re-sussitate them but with 110 MPs signed up Jesse Norman rebels, this seems like hoping pigs will fly.

2. This could be the beginning of the end for the Coalition. Certainly,m it has lost much authority with both PM and his deputy ignored and in the latter's case, humiliated.

3. The Lib Dems will almost certainly vote against the Tory's own constitutional reform plans of reducing the size of the Commons from 650 to 600 MPs, an exercise in boundary readjustments believed should secure a vital extra 20 seats for the Conservatives. This alone explains why Labour keen on Lords reform, was so keen to vote against these plans.

4. All talk of a continuing coalition now seems dead. Quite possibly the arithmetic in 2015 will require another deal between the parties but this particular one's chances never seemed auspicious and perhaps has done well to survive thus far.

5 Defining party positions more sharply is one thing but Cameron and Clegg are still bound together until the election campaign offers them liberation to be themselves again.

Kettle concludes by wondering how far Labour's policy of negative oppositionism- he calls it 'School of Brown politics'- can take them, especially as:

" Brownism has no conception of the national good that is not strictly predicated on its own power"

Interesting times but I still feel it's unlikely that the Lib Dems will repeat the mistake their forebears made in 1979 by forcing an early election.

That time they lost 15% of their MPs, after what Jim Callaghan said was "the first time in recorded history that turkeys have been known to vote for an early Christmas".

Given their current poll ratings, surely if they did it now the carnage for them would be much worse.
I do so agree but nobody is so likely to opt for an election really: Tories lag by 12%,Lib Dems stand at only 10% and Labour cannot yet be sure voters would trust them again after only two years since they were thumped as failures.

Since September anyway elections are fixed term and will not happen until 2015 unless very special conditions are met.
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