Constitutional paralysis threatens coalition

david-cameron.jpg
The coalition government seems to be falling apart over Lords reform

Scottish newsConstitutional paralysis threatens coalition

by Laura Latre and Rosie Harrison 

David Cameron has abandoned plans to reform the House of Lords raising questions over the duration of the Coalition government and the ability of Westminster to handle constitutional questions such as Scottish independence. 

The Prime Minister has blamed his backbenchers to explain the volte-face, claiming that they cannot be persuaded to support the Lords’ reform. Given the introduction of an elected House of Lords was key to the Liberal Democrat election campaign, Nick Clegg risks losing support from within his party if Cameron pulls out of that agreement.

Clegg appears to be standing firm: "The Conservative Party is not honouring the commitment to Lords reform and, as a result, part of our contract has now been broken,"

"Clearly I cannot permit a situation where Conservative rebels can pick and choose the parts of the contract they like, while Liberal Democrat MPs are bound to the entire agreement."

Clegg has threatened to return the favour and block support for change in the boundaries of constituencies. The development adds to speculation the coalition may be beginning to unravel.

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David Cameron’s prized constituency boundary changes aim to cut the number of seats for MPs in the House of Commons from 650 to 600 to save nearly £12mn a year. It is a controversial move; It is reported that the boundary changes could hurt the liberal democrats proportionally more than Labour or the Conservatives.

Lib Dems have made many concessions for the coalition - losing face with their supporters as they backed increasing the tuition fees. Scottish National Party (SNP) MP Andy MacNeil argues that the decision shows that the Westminster government cannot be trusted, meaning independence has key advantages over devolution as promises to decentralise power are unlikely to be fulfilled.

Mr MacNeil said: “Nick Clegg’s announcement shows Westminster is unreformable and, with the coalition making such a mess of constitutional reform at Westminster, they should stop interfering in the process of Scotland's constitutional future.”  

Calling the Tory rebellion a 'breach of contract', Mr Clegg has said Lords reform was a 'non negotiable' part of the Coalition agreement.

Another row: Coalition partner Nick Clegg says the reform was part of a deal and he will block what David Cameron wants in return
So he has promised to make sure the Tories lose their proposed constituency changes, that could have benefited them at the next general election.
This could lead to the Conservatives backing out of the coalition.

Sadiq Khan, the shadow justice secretary, has already been mocking Clegg, accusing him of naivety in ever trusting the prime minister on constitutional reform.

government would abandon the bill to reform the House of Lords after it failed to gain support from enough Conservative backbenchers or the Labour party.

The government has had to abandon the two key parts of its constitutional reform programme by dropping both reform of the House of Lords and changes to the boundaries for MPs' constituencies.
The Lib Dem and deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg leader said that the Conservatives had "broken the contract" between the coalition partners, even though his party had consistently delivered on its side of the deal.

"Coalition works on mutual respect; it is a reciprocal arrangement, a two-way street. So I have told the prime minister that when, in due course, parliament votes on boundary changes for the 2015 election I will be instructing my party to oppose them."

"Clearly I cannot permit a situation where Conservative rebels can pick and choose the parts of the contract they like, while Liberal Democrat MPs are bound to the entire agreement.

It could cause a big rift in the Coalition because it is a key policy of the Liberal Democrats.

SNP say that it shows Westminster no good for reform - shouldn’t get a say in Independence etc.

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published this page in News 2012-08-07 12:27:00 +0100