Any constitutional reform deserves to be treated seriously, and substantial changes to the Second House in Parliament particularly so. It is overdue after many years of being abused by successive governments who have seen it as a vehicle for reward and patronage for their supporters or ministers; it is far too big and some of its incumbents are incompetent or venal. While reform is necessary, it needs to be designed with care and impartiality, and in consultation with the British people.
Nick Clegg’s refusal to allow the electorate the right to vote on the issue shows how much he fears that, like the AV referendum on voting change he spearheaded and lost, he would not get the result he wants so desperately, and it is this denial that offends so many people. Additionally, for weeks we have heard and read well-respected elder statesmen from all parties including the Liberal Democrats’ denouncing the proposals as being not just faulty but potentially damaging, but their views have been disregarded by the Bill’s sponsors.
The Prime Minister, caught between his wish to be seen to support Nick Clegg and so the coalition government, his mutinous backbenchers and common sense, may be relieved, privately, to see the Bill falter permanently tonight as seems likely. The Liberal Democrats will be embarrassed and angry, resorting to political blackmail and non-co-operation and so impeding the progress of government – another example of short-termism on public display.
Coalition government will be increasingly strained but the biggest loser will be Nick Clegg himself as his party and his leadership are seen more and more as ineffective and having lost their way. Expediency at the expense of the public good is not attractive, and karma has a way of reminding us of our shortcomings, sometimes quickly. “You reap what you sow” they say, and the Deputy Prime Minister may come to regret the seeds of Lords’ reform that he has tried to sow, for political benefit, on stony, unsuitable ground.]]>