Perhaps the most intriguing part of Nick Clegg’s decision not to support the 2015 boundary changes as a ‘penalty’ for Lords reform not happening is that Downing Street is insisting on pushing on with the matter. I’m told that Number 10 will ‘do everything we can to persuade everyone we can to vote for them.’ When I put it to this senior Cameroon that this was futile given that with Lib Dem ministers and MPs voting against, there was no chance of getting it through the Commons, the source said ‘is it feasible [to get the boundary changes through], yes’.
There are two possibilities here. One is that Cameron is pursuing a Micawber strategy, hoping that something will turn up which will allow him to get these changes through. The second is that they think there is a possibility of gathering up enough votes from the minor parties to win the vote. It is hard to see how they could make this happen, there aren’t enough DUP MPs for their support alone to make the difference, but if they thought it was impossible, they would surely just accept the Clegg amendment delaying the changes.
The other intriguing question today is how this changes the relations between the coalition partners. On the one hand, it should make things much worse—there are a lot of angry Tories out there today. But on the other, it makes it more likely that Cameron will need the Lib Dems if he is to form a government after the next election. I suspect, though, that the Conservative party would, if it was the largest party after the next election but shy of a majority, prefer to take the chance of a minority government rather than form another coalition.
More Spectator for less. Stay informed leading up to the EU referendum and in the aftermath. Subscribe and receive 15 issues delivered for just £15, with full web and app access. Join us.