Aug 6 2012
The coalition Government is under unprecedented strain after Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg made clear he intends to exact revenge on rebel Tory backbenchers who wrecked his plans for House of Lords reform.
The Liberal Democrat leader said he would now be ordering his MPs to block proposals to re-draw the parliamentary boundaries, which some experts believe could hold the key to an outright Conservative victory at the next general election.
At a Westminster news conference, Mr Clegg confirmed he was dropping his House of Lords Reform Bill, after being informed by David Cameron that an "insufficient number" of Conservative MPs was prepared to back the legislation.
But despite accusing the Conservatives of having broken the "contract" between the two parties, he insisted the Lib Dems would continue to work with them in coalition.
Labour said the announcement was a "humiliation" for the Government which had left the coalition's ambitious programme of constitutional reforms "in tatters".
Mr Clegg said he was acting "reluctantly" after the Prime Minister made clear he was unable to reverse the revolt by 91 Tory backbenchers last month which forced the Government to abandon the crucial timetable motion limiting Commons debate on the Lords reform bill.
"The Conservative party is not honouring the commitment to Lords reform and, as a result, part of our contract has now been broken," he said. "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.
"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."
The collapse of the constitutional reform programme is a bitter blow for the Lib Dems who had been pinning their hopes on Lords reform after their drubbing in the referendum on AV voting for parliamentary elections.
However it also represents a setback for the Conservatives who had been predicted to gain up to 20 seats as a result of the boundary changes - which could be the difference between an overall Tory majority and another hung parliament at the next general election.