Six things we learned from Clegg’s Lords revenge
Nick Clegg confirmed Lords reform was dead this afternoon – and pledged not to support the Tories' goal of boundary reviews in revenge. Here are six things we learned from his explosive statement
1) A Tory majority is now very unlikely
Clegg's announcement he would whip his MPs into voting against the boundaries review means it will almost certainly not pass. With Liberal Democrats and Labour united in opposing the motion, it will not secure a Commons majority.
The Tories were relying on their increased seats from the review – probably about 20 of them. Now they will need a lead of at least seven points to win an outright majority. Most polls currently put them at least ten points behind Labour.
Politics is unpredictable and Ed Miliband could easily have a highly embarrassing episode at the election – like Neil Kinnock's 'we're alright' – which changes his fortune. But as things stand, David Cameron looks unlikely to increase his share of the vote to the extent demanded by the current system.
2) The coalition is probably nearing its end
The coalition now seems unlikely to survive to 2015. Coalitions are, as Clegg stated today, based on mutual assistance. The Lib Dems scratched the Tories boundaries itch and the Tories scratched their House of Lords itch. The former allowed the governing party to undo Labour's electoral advantage. The latter gave the Lib Dems a crucial role in the second chamber via proportional representation. Now that neither of them are willing to sacrifice themselves for their own long-term advantage, the motivations of the coalition becomes much less convincing.
3) The Lib Dems are likely to veer left
Once a consensus is reached in parliament that the coalition is on life support, Lib Dem survival plans are likely to go from theory to practice. Without their major constitutional goals to focus on, Lib Dems will have lost any incentive to stay in the coalition until 2015, at which point they will face the existential threat of a general election.
Instead, left-wing Lib Dem MPs – which is most of them – will want to drop out of coalition, leaving a minority Tory administration. They could then rally around Vince Cable, giving them a two year window to present an alternate image to voters, assuming a minority Tory government survived that long.
Before they made their move, Lib Dems would want everyone on £12,000 or less taken out of tax, in order to have something to show to voters. If the minority government was to survive, they would also need to stick around for the next Budget and George Osborne's second spending review.
4) House of Lords reform is dead once again
Clegg, to his credit, tried everything. Even today, he was insisting there was a chance of it being carried through after the next election. He also revealed he offered a referendum in 2015, but it was rejected. Nothing worked. It's been a hundred years and reformers are still not much closer than they were when the Parliament Act 1911 was passed.
5) Tories MPs are about to rebel even more
Most Conservatives are livid about Clegg's statement, even though many of them dreaded what the boundary review would do them personally. They are now much more likely to rebel on an ongoing basis, as their hatred of the Lib Dems becomes increasingly hysterical. The death of the boundary review will also make Lib Dems more rebellious, as they prepare for bruising local campaigns which will see them distance themselves from the national party as much as possible.
6) Ed Miliband's reputation has received another boost
The Labour leader has gone from no hoper to the most likely future prime minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. His speeches, which were once branded loony leftie nonsense, are now considered far-sighted agenda-setting insights. Today's development confirms he was right to support Lords reform but oppose the timetable. That Machiavellian move destroyed the bill and forced the coalition to tear itself apart. Not only that, but he has prevented a boundaries review which would have damaged his party. He is the clear winner of today's events.