9 Apr 2012

Danger for coalition over Lords reform

The Queen’s Speech will see the Coalition unveiling a giant hammer it intends to hit itself with for months ahead: Lords reform.

The strength of feeling against the planned Lords reforms on Tory benches in the Commons is formidable, in the Lords it is nigh on unanimous. Leaving aside the merits of reform, this is going to be a painful experience.

Lord Flight (formerly Tory MP Howard Flight) suggests to me in a report in tonight’s Channel 4 News that it could lose David Cameron his job.

Much will depend on how Ed Miliband plays it. He would like his MPs to vote for the package initially while making sure it has a protracted, Maastricht-style debate in the Commons. Many around him would like Labour to make sure it goes to the Lords to maximise Coalition pain there and frustrate the entire government legislative programme. But will Ed Miliband’s own backbenchers let him? Older ones in particular can be vehement opponents of boosting Lords’ status with elections, some are uni-cameralists. Ex Chief Whip, Nick Brown, tells me Ed Miliband mustn’t play games with such a critical issue.

Even Nick Clegg has a sizable minority of peers who think he’s got it all wrong on Lords reform. Former Liberal leader, Lord (David) Steel tells me he thinks his successor has not thought through the balance of power between the two houses of parliament. Lord Lee says he’d give Nick Clegg very low marks for the plans as they stand and he should think hard before marching his troops towards another defeat.

You can watch Gary Gibbon’s report below.

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