Coffee House

Harman tries to play ball with Clegg on boundaries

3 September 2012

3 September 2012

Nick Clegg didn’t mention the boundary reforms once in the statement he gave to the House of Commons on the death of the House of Lords Reform Bill. The Deputy Prime Minister knew he wouldn’t need to wait long for an opportunity to talk about it, though, and he was right: Harriet Harman raised the changes to constituencies as soon as she stood up to respond.

Seizing on the Liberal Democrats’ decision to oppose the changes as revenge for the failure of their attempts to reform the upper chamber, Harman told Clegg that Labour thought the work of the Boundary Commission should stop immediately, given the cost of it continuing with work which will be voted down in the House of Commons. ‘The ball is in his court,’ she told the chamber.

Subscribe from £1 per week


But the Conservatives remain confident that the reforms will go through. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman this afternoon insisted that ‘it’s the law’ for there to be a vote on the changes. Those at the top privately suspect that when the time for the vote comes round next year, Nick Clegg and his colleagues may find it expedient for various reasons to submit to the changes and support them. And while Clegg was clear at the start of August that he had told the Prime Minister that his party would vote against the boundaries, I understand David Cameron did not come away from that particular conversation believing the two men had agreed that this sort of rebellion would be acceptable.

Harman knows that her party will be the beneficiary of the failure of the boundary reforms. She was also trying to position Labour on the side of the public by making this debate about cost: stop the Commission from working out constituency boundaries that will never come into force and save the government some money.

Clegg is currently bellowing rather forcefully in the chamber and continually criticising Labour as he continues to answer question from MPs. He also gave Harman ’10 out of 10 for insincerity’ when he responded to her statement. The ball isn’t really in his court to play a rally with Labour on this anyway: as Number 10 pointed out this afternoon, there is an act of parliament which means this vote must be held.


More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us.

Show comments
  • Agent S

    Whilst there is an Act of Parliament which makes it illegal for this vote not to go ahead, surely such blatant attempts at gerrymandering are also illegal? The last time that gerrymandering was proven to have occurred in the UK, it was also the Tories at fault. In that case, in the 1980s, a huge fine was imposed upon then council leader and Tesco heiress Shirley Porter – who then fled to Israel. The work of the Boundary Commission would undoubtedly cost a considerable sum going forward – perhaps it should be mothballed until the vote has been won…or indeed, lost.

    • 3Para

      If you want to come here and post your inane comments, please try and stick to the facts. The Boundary Review was part of theParliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 which was passed into law on 16 February 2011. There is due to be a further vote in parliament after the Boundary Commission finishes its work on the new constituencies in 2013. Gerrymandering is what labour did by importing millions of dodgy immigrants – what Shiley Porter got up to is insignificant by comparison. If something is passed into law by the majority will of parliament it is not gerrymandering.

  • rosie

    The liberals can compromise honourably when the time comes by agreeing to equalisation but not reduction. This should please quite a few conservatives and they can all stay sitting on their benches together for the agreed term.

  • 2trueblue

    44,000 votes to win a Tory seat, 29,000 votes for a Labour seat. How many votes for a LibDum seat? So why would Labour not be there to stir the mix. It is in Labours favour to keep it as it is. Very principled.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Paul-Shakespeare/715581221 Andrew Paul Shakespeare

    How would scrapping the commission save money? The MP’s on it are all salaried, as are the secretaries and various others working on it. Presumably, they meet in rooms in Parliament, so they’re not paying rent. Who would be laid off as a result of the commission’s scrappage?

    Disingenuous as ever, Harman knows this. And just who is she to whinge about wasting money, formerly Gordon Clown’s right-hand woman (or should that be “person”), and supporter of Ed Balls’ determination to return to the glory days of spend, spend, spend?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Paul-Shakespeare/715581221 Andrew Paul Shakespeare

    How would scrapping the commission save money? The MP’s on it are all salaried, as are the secretaries and various others working on it. Presumably, they meet in rooms in Parliament, so they’re not paying rent. Who would be laid off as a result of the commission’s scrappage?

    Disingenuous as ever, Harman knows this. And just who is she to whinge about wasting money, formerly Gordon Clown’s right-hand woman (or should that be “person”), and supporter of Ed Balls’ determination to return to the glory days of spend, spend, spend?

  • Archimedes

    “I understand David Cameron did not come away from that particular conversation believing the two men had agreed that this sort of rebellion would be acceptable.”

    Good – that sounds a little more prime-ministerial.

  • Andy

    The Boundary Review should go ahead. It should not be subject to any Vote. And actually I for one would have reduced the number of seats further.

    • Jim

      By a factor of two, I suggest…………

  • Charlie

    It is absurd how ministers of all parties use the excuse of “there is a law” to bind them. They are legislators, so they can change it.

    • Douglas Carter

      It’s only a law if it suits them.
      If it doesn’t, its ‘an ancient obstacle which has no place in the legislation of a modern country’.

Close
Can't find your Web ID? Click here