9 Jul 2012

Lords debate hots up as Tories attack Clegg

Nick Clegg, opening the second reading debate on Lords reform, was speaking for less than one minute before the first heckle – Tory PPS (but not for long) Conor Burns. It was one minute and 10 seconds before Peter Lilley tried to intervene. Mr Lilley asked if Mr Clegg’s issue was that the Lords worked in practice but not in theory? At any point there are usually around half a dozen Tories on their feet trying to intervene on Mr Clegg.

He’s announced a concession that there could be another vote in the Commons after the first election of 120 peers planned for 2015 on whether the second and third tranches of elections to the Lords should go ahead.  A no vote would leave 120 already elected peers there from the 2015 election sitting with life peers with the Lords forever in a state of transition.

Charles Kennedy and Chris Huhne are in the Commons – looks like a full turnout from the Lib Dem backbench. The Tory benches packed and bursting with anger, grumbling and scowling throughout Nick Clegg’s speech. George Osborne and Michael Gove have come along to try to show support for the measure. Lords reform is one of the few issues on which the polymath Mr Gove is rumoured not to hold strong opinions. Nonetheless, both Tory cabinet ministers kept their heads rigid throughout the Clegg speech – risking nothing that could be interpreted as a nod. They were doing their duty. Both left quite soon after the Clegg speech, presumably to slip out of their neck braces.

Many Tories are stirred to anger by Lords reform. There are also plenty who wouldn’t mind killing off the coalition and see this as one way of bringing that closer. Nicholas Soames raged at Nick Clegg for quoting Churchill (his grandfather) in support of Lords reform. Mr Soames said his grandfather came to have “great reverence” for the Lords.

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