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Clegg rejects ‘cash-for-seats’ deal for boundaries

16 October 2012

1:28 PM

16 October 2012

1:28 PM

Deputy Prime Minister’s questions is quite often a slightly grumpy affair, with Nick Clegg huffing and puffing at irritating questions from Peter Bone about what position he would take in the government if David Cameron were run over by a bus. This morning’s session wasn’t much different: it was even more bad-tempered as backbenchers were keen to pick at scabs on the failure of Lords reform.

The Deputy Prime Minister continually defended the Liberal Democrats’ decision to block the boundary reforms, criticising Labour for failing to support the programme motion for the House of Lords Reform Bill. It was like watching a couple who had broken up continue to bicker about whose fault it was. Bone attacked Clegg for linking the changes to constituencies with the failure of House of Lords reform, saying:

‘The Conservative members of the Coalition delivered AV – the House of Lords reform Bill delivered the opportunity for AV. The biggest majority in this parliament, the biggest majority was for House of Lords reform. How can the Deputy Prime Minister vote against the boundary review and expect to remain in government?’


Clegg was tickled by this:

‘I am delighted that – if fleetingly – the honourable member was in favour of AV… We are honouring the coalition agreement by putting the boundary review legislation on the statute books… but we are not, for the reasons I have already explained, going to vote for the changes.’

Then he came out with a joke:

‘I have also read in the papers reports that the chair of the Conservative party wishes to strike a deal with us on the boundaries in return for a party funding deal. I suppose, Mr Speaker, finally that’s a get rich quick scheme that he’s proud to put his name to!’

MPs roared ‘more! more!’ Clegg looked pleased with himself, and gave them a bit more:

‘Put it this way: a change of mind on my part on this issue is as likely as the honourable member for Wellingborough (Peter Bone) going to Norway to accept the Nobel Price on behalf of the European Union. It’s not going to happen.’

Though Conservative MPs privately believe that there is a much better chance of the boundary changes still going through than that, some feel the odds have lengthened. But they still believe that as the vote is a year away, there is still a chance, even though the party itself is starting to select on the basis of old boundaries. Clegg is right to reject a deal for state funding: as I argued yesterday, this would look grubby. But something else might come up over the next few months that the Tories think he’ll find attractive instead. Even if they do, it is very difficult to imagine him going back on such tough talk about opposing the changes.

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Show comments
  • Boudicca_Icenii

    So at the next General Election, Clegg will be vulnerable to the charge that at a time of austerity and cutbacks in the public sector, he is in favour of retaining an unnecessary and superfluous 50 MPs, costing us hundreds of thousands of pounds a year, in order to ‘pay back’ the Conservative Party.
    I’m sure that even Osborne/Cameron can’t miss THAT open goal.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Nice to see Clogg so pleased with himself parading his anti-democratic contempt for the people from the front bench of the HoC.
    In the olden days the little toe-rag would be disemboweled in the Spec. Luckily for him we live in more ‘enlightened’ times

  • Watcher

    Boundary reform is a right of the people. It is not for politicians to withhold. Boundary review is built into the US Constitution as a mandatory action following every census. Clegg is playing party politics with an inalienable right. The people should take note.

  • McRobbie

    Cannot believe that the labour and lib dems, so keen on equality of opportunity, can stand against the one person one vote of equal value proposal. I understand labour, that stance gives them the best opportunity of POWER, their only real ambition, but the lib dems? they will never get back in power especially when the public see them show such double standards.

    • Andy

      Oh I can believe it. The LibDems have never like the Boundary Review because it will cost them seats. It is a plain fact that most Labour seats are smaller than Tory seats – look at the seats in Wales where even if you blocked Rhondda with any of the seats that border it and you still do not get the same number of electors as on the Isle of Wight, a Tory seat. If anything the Boundary Review didn’t go far enough: the seats should have been 100000 electors and it should have been across the board, no exceptions. We should also have addressed the West Lothian question while we were at it. That one is easy too: we have English only bills where no MP who does not sit for an English seat can speak or vote.

  • Westham1980

    Do the maths. 306 Tory MPs, 8 DUP and it is believed that the 5 SNP have just been bought off and probably the 3 Welsh lot. Total 322. No Sinn Fien and the speaker has to vote with the government in the event of a tie. Also, I wager that at least the Lib cabinet members will be washing their hair that night. Result!

  • James Strachan

    I rather think that Nick Clegg is only exhibiting, at a national level, the behaviour that we have learned to expect from Liberal Democrat councillors.

  • realfish

    I agree; a funding for boundaries deal would look grubby.
    What’s more important, though, is righting a democratic wrong, but from what he says, that’s not anything that Clegg is up for.
    Clegg seems to have calculated that it’s in his and his party’s interest to keep boundaries as they are. Now that really is grubby.

  • Bardirect

    I checked the Coalition agreement and it looks like the commitment was not to support the process of legislation but to achieve an outcome namely “the creation of fewer and more equal sized constituencies”. Plainly the LibDems are about to renege on this commitment. If Cameron has any backbone he should plainly state that any Minister who fails to support the Coalition agreement ought to resign before doing so, as some of those in his own party have done on other issues.

    • Mirtha Tidville

      Cameron doesn`t have any backbone which is why we are where we are, sad to say

      • Andy

        I agree. Cameron should grow a pair and tell Clegg where to get off.