Coffee House

Boundaries vote: what next for the Coalition parties?

29 January 2013

6:26 PM

29 January 2013

6:26 PM

So the Lib Dems got their way in the end, teaming up with Labour and minor parties to delay the changes to constituency boundaries until 2018 by 334 votes to 292. There were Tory rebels, too, and here, thanks to the Press Association, are their names:

John Baron
Philip Davies
David Davis
Sir Richard Shepherd

The minor parties also voted with the Lib Dems and Labour: only the Alliance’s Naomi Long voted with the Tories. Nadine Dorries, who remains suspended from the party, also supported the Conservatives.

Tempers ran high in the debate itself, with Tory Penny Mordaunt MP accusing the Libs of casting ‘flirtatious glances’ across the Chamber at Labour and of exchanging their sandals for flip flops. She didn’t mention whether they’d also ditched their socks with the sandals. But she’s right: a Lib-Lab coalition in 2015 is seen as more likely than a Tory majority government, especially after today.


What does this mean? Well, the Lib Dems are insistent that even though their ministers voted against their own government, this isn’t the end of collective responsibility or coalition. A Lib Dem source said after the vote: ‘Since then we’ve had a mid-term review and we will continue to work together.’

They believe this revenge was important as it showed that Nick Clegg’s dark threat of ‘consequences’ for the failure of Lords reform was not an empty threat but a powerful one. They had to take their ministers into the rebel lobby today to have the same effect that a group of naughty Tory backbenchers could have on Lords reform. And actually, their main worry is not that this means a broken coalition relationship, but that today’s vote will make party management more difficult, with backbenchers and angry activists demanding that it set a precedent for other contentious issues.

But for the Tories, there’s firstly the obvious problem that they don’t get the electoral rebalancing they had hoped for, making it that much harder to win in 2015. It’s just as well they have such a Tiggerish chairman in Grant Shapps, who will now have to work even harder, but there are few others who aren’t thinking about coalition rather than majority. This will mean pressure builds on Cameron from backbenchers to do something sufficiently Tory in the next couple of years that shows he’s not aiming for another coalition.

There might even be a hint of regret that the whips and the Tory leadership hadn’t been more effective in nipping the Lords rebellion in the bud. And the Tories have the same management problem on their hands as their partners: the next vote on a ‘Lib Dem win’ issue will be a difficult one to sell to Tory backbenchers.

But even though this was about the bad bits of the Coalition, today’s vote should also remind Conservative MPs of the good bits. For those yearning for a single-party government, they should remember today’s vote as an example of what relying on the minor parties in the Commons would have been like, with each vote resting on a knife edge.

UPDATE, 18.35: William Hill has shortened the odds on Labour to win an overall majority in 2015 from 5/4 to 6/5 following this afternoon’s vote. The odds for the Tories to win have lengthened from 11/4 to 7/2. The odds  for no overall majority have been shortened, too, from 13/8 to 11/8, with the odds for a Lib-Lab coalition 6/1, and a Tory/Lib coalition 8/1.

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Show comments
  • Guru McKenzie

    Smart politics from the Tories (NOT)

    dear old Penny needs a weekend seminar at the Michael Corleone School of Political Strategy – i.e keep your friends close but your enemies even closer

  • arnoldo87

    When we see how difficult it is for other countries to establish even fledgling democracies, it reminds us how fragile even a mature democracy can be. It becomes imperative, therefore, that our own electoral system should be as clean and uncorrupted as it possibly can be.

    So when a bias develops in the configuration of our parliamentary seats, our politicians really must act to remove it. Shame, then, on the LibDems for taking such a petty revenge on the Tories.

    But more shame on Labour for not doing the right thing and removing the bias in their favour. If they do win power in 2015, this vote will haunt them for years as they will (correctly) be accused of being the gerrymandering party.

    • Andy

      Labour don’t care. Most of their MPs are elected in small seats and a proper Boundary review, as was proposed, would make it much more difficult for them to gain power. I always quote the Isle of Wight which has 110000 electors. Contrast that with Rhondda with only 53000 electors. You could block that seat with any that border it and you still would not get a seat with more than 115000 electors. So in the case of Rhondda and bounds you get two Labour MPs when actually there ought to be only one.

  • Tom Tom

    Which former Goldman banker will become PM in 2015 ?

  • Youbian

    Cameron is such a weak leader. If he was a tougher man he would tell Clegg where to go. Seems to be one rule for the Lib Dems and another for Tory backbenchers. Cameron is only nice to the Lib Dems.

    • Tom Tom

      Cameron is a weak man….there you can shorten your sentence by omitting words

  • Russell

    So pre-general election 2015 flyers can justifiably say that Labour and LibDem MP’s stopped a bill which would have saved the taxpayers £millions per year by dumping 50 MP’s with all their wages/pensions/expenses etc. and has also left the unfair system of constituencies varying in size by thousands and one party (Labour MP’s) requiring far fewer votes to get elected.
    The electorate should bear this in mind when putting their x in a box.

  • the viceroy’s gin

    Well, speaking of the oddsmakers, they’re soon going to have to start giving odds on a Lab-UKIP coalition. If the LD’s collapse as they very well might, that could turn out to be the only majority game in town, well, assuming a Lab-Con coalition doesn’t result.

    • 2trueblue

      There is no way UKIP would have anything to talk to Liebore about. Millipede has already set out his stall on the referendum issue.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        The Millipedes will very likely win a plurality, and they can probably govern with that, but they could come under pressure from a UKIP and Tory confederation, which could eventually merge and skew away from them. The Millipedes could head that off if they could negotiate a working agreement with UKIP, and nudge the Tories out of the picture.

        UKIP would be getting what they want, either from the Tories or Millipedes. They could hold off on any other issues, because as long as the coalition agreement was acceptable re EU issues, their core mission is honored.

        This is really the most sensible thing Lab could do, if they won and UKIP also won a good number of seats.

        The only other consideration would be the Lab-Con coalition possibility. They’d both screw UKIP, which you’re right they’d both like to do, and the wets would love it because they could screw their backbenchers, too.

        • David Lindsay

          There is no possibility of a UKIP and Tory confederation. UKIP would never wear it.

          As for the Tories, Cameron took the votes of two thirds of their party members as a socially liberal Europhile against the socially conservative and Eurosceptical David Davis, one of today’s four Tory votes against the boundary changes.

          Many Davis supporters have since died, more do so every week (possibly every day), and socially conservative Eurosceptics are leaving the party in droves.

          That party is now even more socially liberal and even more Europhile than it always was, and it is becoming even more so than that all the time.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            There is every possibility of everything.

            If you don’t have a majority, it’s kill or be killed.

            You can chance it and go forward alone, but to be successful at that, you have to have courage and fortitude and determination… and your goal cannot be about holding power for power’s sake, it must be the exercise of power and nurturing issues to ripeness, along with a willingness to take your case to the voters.

            Who among these chancers has all that? Right.

            They all have to have coalition partners. It’s that simple. They’re lilliputian.

            Oh, and like it or not, the EU issue will be approaching ripeness. The smart guy will get in front of that, rather than getting miles behind it as the Cameroons.

            • David Lindsay

              There are not going to be any UKIP MPs. It is as simple as that, and every time that anyone on UKIP appears on radio or television, he says it frankly, in those words. Where, exactly, is UKIP going to be the first past the post?

              There is going to be a Labour overall majority. Everyone knows it. Everyone has known it for years. Not months. Years. It is the 1992-1997 Parliament all over again.

              • the viceroy’s gin

                Hmmmm, so “everybody” knows the Millipedes are going to win a majority, you say? Somebody better go tell the oddsmakers right quick, before they get skinned. They’re having it as a pick-’em.

                No, the Millipedes are too weak for you to be fantasizing they’re going to win a majority. Not that the Cameroon idiots aren’t doing their best to facilitate that. They are. But it still won’t happen. I’d put the ‘Pedes at 42-45% of the electorate at best as of now, and very likely much lower, as they stumble.

                The Cameroons (Dave may be gone by then) will take 28-33% or so.

                LD’s will likely collapse, say 4-8% (and Clegg may be gone, too).

                And UKIP will be the wild card. In double figures for sure, with a good shot at 15%. If things break for them, they could bust through into a nice little troublemaking collection of seats. Oh Lord would that ever be festive.

                • David Lindsay

                  UKIP will not win any seats. If Labour gets its act together in certain previously difficult parts of the country, then nor need the Lib Dems.

                  First Past The Post is First Past The Post. 15% (extremely unlikely by then, but suppose it) does not necessarily mean any seats at all. Less than one per cent does not necessarily mean none.

                  More broadly, you just don’t understand Britain. Although there is nothing to stop you from simply reading almost every election result and almost every opinion poll since the Coalition came into existence.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Oh, 15% for UKIP is quite possible. If it breaks right, I’d put them on 20%. That would require quite an upheaval, but that too is possible.

                  What you fail to understand and accept is the LibLabCon mirror imagery, and the explosiveness of the overall situation. When you have accelerant and ignition source, you can expect an exothermic reaction is to come. UKIP’s strategic plan would depend on that process, yes, and their plan is assisted by LibLabCon incompetence amplifying and catalyzing that reaction. They’re doing so daily.

                  You’ll get a taste of this in 2014, when UKIP is in their EU electoral element. My guess is that if they do well, you’ll see a mad LibLabCon scramble to get next to UKIP positions. The chancers will see what you’re blind to, most likely.

                • David Lindsay

                  20% still need not translate into any seats under First Past The Post. As for the European Elections, after five years of saying that they were going to come first, it is impossible to see how Farage will be able to retain his position as Leader when UKIP comes either second or third, a close third, but a very distant second.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Of course, seat counts are always transient and not hard-piped to vote count. But as you continue to ignore, seat count isn’t the truest indicator of UKIP’s influence, in either domestic or EU politics.

                  That would be, basically, because you lefties and your Cameroonian soulmates agree on everything, including the EU. Only UKIP breaks with your settled politics.

                  But you’d have to understand politics in order to appreciate that.

                  And I wouldn’t make book that UKIP could finish with 20% of the electorate and yet not get any seats. When you reach critical mass, you get seats. The 20% would be a reflection of a move within the electorate. Still yet to arise, no doubt, but then matters aren’t ripe right now.

                • David Lindsay

                  Of course seat count is the truest indicator of influence. There is no influence without it.

                • the viceroy’s gin


                  Again, count up the Cameroonian soiled pants, all due to UKIP, and them having nary a seat.

                  That is what is called “influence”. Absent UKIP, the LibLabCon clones would be frolicking merrily towards their common EUSSR goal, full speed ahead and not a word of protest from anybody.

                • Wessex Man

                  I wish someone would lock you two in a sound proofed room and throw the key away.

                • the viceroy’s gin


                  Interesting “wish”. Strange, but provocative. I’ll give it a 4.5.

                • Daniel Maris

                  I am amazed with the dexterity with which you take the nation’s pulse at a distance of some 5000 miles. Incredible!

                  But at that distance you are missing some crucial factors. It will be even more difficult for the Tories to win a seat and easier for Labour as the disparity in constituency sizes widens. The Tories will be losing about 20 seats thanks to their support for Heathrow expansion and the HS2 project.

    • David Lindsay

      UKIP is not going to win any seats.

      A Lab-Con Coalition is not as improbable as it sounds, although Cameron and his entourage would have to go.

      But there is going to be a Labour overall majority. Everyone knows that, and it has nothing to do with the boundaries. It would have happened under any boundaries.

      Call it a good thing. Call it a bad thing. But everyone knows that it is a fact.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        Au contraire. If there were a Lab-Con coalition, Cameron would be an integral part of it, however far behind the scenes.

        Osborne’s budget mirrored Darling’s, and so Osborne’s scalp might be belted for show, but the original Darling-Osborne budget would likely hold with a new Lab minister, assuming the whole QE house of cards hasn’t caved in by then.

        The rest of the agenda is the same, so it really doesn’t matter. LibLabCon are clones, basically. That’s the beauty of the Lab-Con coalition, it kills off the UKIP and Tory backbench troublemakers in one fell swoop.

        Cameron is the key. He knows how to kill off the backbench Tories. That’s what the Millipedes would need.

        • David Lindsay

          There is no need for Cameron to “kill off backbench Tories”, most of whom agree with him about everything and many of whom are more liberal than he is, not infrequently, in the 2010 intake, having long and recent histories on the Liberal Left, or on the sectarian Marxist Left, or in Asian communal politics.

          Following the next round of voluntary or involuntary retirements, there will be almost no one else on the Conservative benches after 2015. And there is going to be a Labour overall majority, anyway. Everyone knows that.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            Agreed, most of the Cameroons are leftist, and would fit in neatly with the Millipedes and you hard leftists. The Lab-Con coalition would be hand in glove. You types are all clones.

            But the few backbenchers are not leftists. They’d have to be put down. That’s where Dave comes in.

            And again, you’ll need to run and get some cash down on the “everyone knows the Millipedes will win majority” thing. The oddsmakers all seem to have missed what you and “everyone” know.

    • HooksLaw

      Europhile labour?
      You grow ever more loony

      • David Lindsay

        The word from the inside (I had a misspent youth) is that the people closest to Ed Miliband do not want a referendum because they do not want a BBC-instructed Yes vote, which would make it practically impossible to legislate back powers through Parliament. I think that they are on to something. That, after all, is why Cameron does want a referendum.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          You’re correct. The Millipedes do not want a referendum. Ever. Under any circumstances. No qualifiers or secret strategy present or required.

          None of the LibLabCon twits want a referendum.

          Ever. Under any circumstances.

          That’s why UKIP is making hay.

          • David Lindsay

            Where, exactly, is UKIP going to be the First Past The Post in 2015? It is statistically tied with the Tories for a distant second place at next year’s European Elections. This year’s local elections will give it a tally of councillors only marginally less pitiful than its present one.

            UKIP is having to purge self-described anarcho-capitalists who say what its leading figures, including Farage, said until very recently and what its activists really think. Its main campaign at the moment is to ensure continued funding of the BNP by the EU. Seriously. You couldn’t make that up).

            And the affectionate indulgence of the BBC will not last much longer. Who knows, we may then get to hear from parties that have real, live Members of the House of Commons?

            • the viceroy’s gin

              You err in thinking UKIP’s status is due to (presence or absence of) political talent, media “indulgence” or other insider scorekeeping piffle.

              UKIP is an expression. If you pifflers want to score them, you might want to go count up the number of shit-stained pants soiled by a sitting prime minister.

              Nothing wrong with scorekeeping insider piffle, but you best open your peripheral vision to other data sets. The Cameroons certainly are. Ask their dry cleaner.

  • McRobbie

    I dont understand why then lib dems actually think they can benefit from maintaining a voting system that lets the labour get in by a mile when the tories with the same proportion of votes would only scrape in, if they are lucky. This means that the only hope the lib dems have is a tory lead similar to the last election so that they can join up with them again; labour wont have them. And who thinks now there is any chance of the tories getting into bed with the lib dems after this farce. The lib dems are the PR party, they want representation to be based on the proposrtion of votes, then they vote against the nearest they are likely to get to that principle. Lib Dems deserve the reputation they have now gained of being the party that breaks their promises. Labour just break the country.

    • 2trueblue

      Come on, the LibDums have shown us that they know nothing about democracy so why we have any expectation of them? I would be pleased if Cameron had the balls to tell them that he no longer wished to continue the so called coalition with them. He might find that his rating goes up. Certainly after this the LibDums will not have gained much credibility.

    • Colonel Mustard

      They are truly a ghastly gang, like some mutant relative of the Labour party that has escaped from the attic.

      • David Lindsay

        No, they are a close relative of the Conservative Party. Historically, socially, culturally and ideologically. They are your Caliban’s reflection.

        • Colonel Mustard

          I doubt that. They emerged from Labour. But I’m willing to listen so do please expand.

          • David Lindsay

            They most certainly not emerge from Labour.

            In point of fact, the takeover of the age-old Tory machine by successive waves of them is what has defined the Conservative Party, to the extent that most of that party’s members and supporters have managed to convince themselves that things like free trade and personal libertarianism are conservative and even Tory.

            Historically and philosophically illiterate, but then the Tories have not always been called the Stupid Party for nothing.

            • Colonel Mustard

              The SDP element which re-energised them emerged from Labour and the rump Liberal element was certainly never part of the Conservative party. In fact their origins lay in opposition to it.

              Their infiltration of the Tories I give you.

            • iviv44

              Are you really trying to maintain that SDP (from which much of the Lib Dem policy base derives) did not come from Labour. Revisionist or what!?

            • Nicholas chuzzlewit

              I wanted to ignore your ignorant and gratuitous insult of “Stupid” but as it provides such a perfect example of the Left’s visceral hatred of anybody so misguided as to disagree with ‘it’ , I feel compelled to comment. Each of your posts is an untested assertion without room for doubt and as iviv44 points out “revisionist” and self serving. There is a real issue here as balanced responsible citizens struggle to deal with the creeping anti-democracy of the Left which reflects its bitter loathing of its own country and of which you repeatedly demonstrate you are a prime example. In closing, I would point out that the Conservative party is the most electorally successful political institution of the last 200 years so you are calling a lot of people stupid. You might reflect on your own bitter ignorance for a while instead of gratuitously insulting the rest of us.

              • David Lindsay

                Point proved.

                • Nicholas chuzzlewit

                  Better to be stupid than an intolerant, anti-democratic Stalinist bore who hates this country and everybody who disagrees with him. .

  • 2trueblue

    Our enemies we know, friends…… watch them. In this case so true. says everything I thought about Clegg from the beginning. What a despicable man and his ‘party’. The sooner Cameron dumps the LibDums the better. It will make no difference, Lib/Lab now or in 2yrs.

  • In2minds

    “This will mean pressure builds on Cameron from backbenchers to do
    something sufficiently Tory in the next couple of years……..”

    I nearly fell off my chair from laughing! The again has he ever done anything ‘Tory’?

    • trevor21

      A Malian war may be his answer. The cretin so want’s ‘his’ war.

  • Andy

    Perhaps the Tories should remind the LibDems that there will be ‘Consequences’ for not honouring the agreement.

    • Bluesman

      Perhaps the Chordatically Challenged One will “not let matters rest there”.

    • Daniel Maris

      What be they? An early election? There will be no consequences, except for the Tories.

    • George_Arseborne

      Are you living in a cloud cukoo land? What consequences? Lazy Tories thinking they were born to rule. The so called speech on EU is now in the bin. The consequences is Cameron looking morre desperate. Osborne more gloomy as if he just swalow a life wasp when the GDP figure came out. What a mess we have as a Conservative Party.

      • Andy

        The LibDems have broken the agreement – boundary review was tied to AV. So perhaps it is time the Tories treated the LibDems as they have been treating the Tories.

        And it is you that lives in ‘cloud cuckoo land’. If you live on the Isle of Wight (110000 electors) your vote has a weight less than half that of a vote in Rhondda (53000 electors), or Arfon with just 41000 electors. The Boundary review is long overdue, as well you know.

      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        In answer to your question, they are still preferable to the sinister, hate-filled incompetents that constitute a Labour party which landed us in this almighty mess. Judging by your comments you share its visceral hatred of democracy.

  • Jebediah

    Lib Dems the party of PR prove themselves anti-democratic. Where are their principles now? Hypocritical…

  • starfish


    Vote LibDem for keeping the same number of MPs and built in bias in favour of Labour

    vote Libdem/Labour for no referendum on Europe

    Who is the libertarian party again?

    Seems to be a sure fire way of getting more Conservative policies, Libdem electoral oblivion

  • Noa

    “Tempers ran high in the debate itself, with Tory Penny Mordaunt MP
    accusing the Libs of casting ‘flirtatious glances’ across the Chamber at
    Labour and of exchanging their sandals for flip flops.”

    That will teach them to aspire to the Socratic levels of discourse that may only be found on the CH Wall. And then only rarely.

    n.b. Good post Isobel, thank you.

  • David Lindsay

    Even if there were nothing else to do, the solution to an alleged electoral bias against the Conservatives cannot be the abolition of scores of Shire Tory seats.

    • Koakona

      It should not be about bias against one or another party, it should be about equally sized constituencies (as far as is possible) so that our votes have equal worth.

      • David Lindsay

        Clearly, though, Burkean Toryism lives on after all against such views of the sophists, the economists and the calculators.

        It lives on in the persons of David Davis, Philip Davies, the great John Baron, and the redoubtable old constitutionalist Sir Richard Shepherd. Andrew Percy and Glynn Davies abstained. Why Ken Clarke and William Hague did not turn up, who dares to speculate?

        In point of fact, the Conservative Party has been selecting candidates based on the existing boundaries for four months now, already resigned to the inevitable loss of this measure.

        A loss wholly unconnected to that of the 2015 General Election, which was going to happen entirely regardless of mere boundaries. Even now, never mind after another two and a half years of this, even the allocation of 60 seats to each of the old eight Home Counties, with the other 170 shared out among every other part of the country, would still deliver a comfortable Labour overall majority.

        • Noa


        • HooksLaw

          Clearly bogus rubbish lives on in your ramblings.

          • David Lindsay

            I think you’ll find that both Houses of Parliament agreed with me. Including (not that there have ever been very many) the last socially conservative and Eurosceptical candidate to contest a Conservative Party Leadership Election. Not just the last one to date. The last one ever.

      • dalai guevara

        Yes very true, and it also should be about having the views of the people expressed in Parliament, not this left right claptrap of pseudo showdowns.
        Or I’ll say it differently: Parliament today does not reflect the views of the British people. It is no longer the place where relevant political discussion takes place. If I want discourse, I now need to watch Question Time or Parliamentary broadcasts from Brussels (did I really say that?).

        When more than 25% of voters views are excluded from the House (UKIP, Greens, BNP et al), as FPTP effectively disqualifies them, and one third of the votes cast can give you two thirds of the seats, then our votes indeed don’t have ‘equal worth’… when did the ruling party ever declare it was selflessly against that?

        • Koakona

          Showing a clear misunderstanding of representative democracy as well as simple plurality. Nevermind, keep on peddling your PR myths.

      • Wessex Man

        Don’t be silly Koakona – David Lindsay has never been interested in democracy, unfortunately nor have our Westminster Village.

    • Fergus Pickering

      What is this ‘alleged’ old fruit?

      • David Lindsay

        Neither House of Parliament could be convinced that it existed.

  • HooksLaw

    Tory backbenchers have only themselves to blame – there was no point to the Lords rebellion. The Lords needs reform – or abolition.

    • Brian

      Absolutely right. The backbenchers brought this on themselves, and have shot their own party in the foot. In their desire to act as though they had won a majority, they’ve virtually guaranteed they won’t get one next time.

      Not that that excuses the two-faced, unprincipled behaviour of the Lib Dems.

      • 2trueblue

        Cameron should tell the LibDums they can go now. Clegg can step down, the LibDum ministers could be removed. They are no longer interested in democracy, so why should Cameron give them any leeway? They could struggle on for a bit and let an election be called in the end. It will make no difference in the end, but the LibDums might not get as many seats as they did last time. They might even get slaughtered.

        • Noa

          With fixed term Parliaments a two thirds majority of the House is required to call an election.

          Cameron could try to run a minority government, Labour and the Lib Dems could try to form a government.

          We would have a hung Pariament, the Coalition agreement would wither as de facto electioneering commenced and parties sought advantage.
          Government would stagger on until such time as the parties agred to dissolution.
          Cameron’s fault for establishing the constitutional mess arising from a fixed term Parliament.

          • 2trueblue

            So what could he have done with the events as they happened after the last election?

            As it is now

            • Noa

              I don’t disagree with you.

              But by enacting fixed term legislation he has dead locked himself into a loveless and self serving stalemate.

              He cannot go to the country to without a two thirds agreement, to resolve even the most desperate issues.

              And so an ineffectual government hobbles on, with the corpse of Rinka chained to its ankle.

              • 2trueblue

                You can disagree, but time will tell how his position will change and then we will know. The LibDums have truely blotted their copybook, and have not much credibility left. Liebore are proving very quickly that they and the great BBC are incapable of reporting facts correctly so we shall see. You have produced all the negatives. What is your solution?

    • Victor Southern

      It was not so much that Lords reform was being opposed but the LibDem version of it which was really unsuitable in several ways. The idea of having some retreaded apparatchik sitting there for a 15 year fixed term was abominable.

      • HooksLaw

        There is such a thing as amendments and indeed compromises. There is even such a thing as more than one way to skin a cat.
        there is even such a thing as winning the election and amending the plans later.