Nick Clegg came to the Commons today to both praise and bury House of Lords reform, for this parliament at least. In a light-hearted start, Clegg informed the House that he was here to update it on ‘House of Lords reform or what’s left of it’. But this light-hearted mood didn’t last long. Soon Clegg and Harman were trading blows, with the Deputy Prime Minister accusing Labour of having behaved like miserable, little party point scoring politicians’ in refusing to back the idea of a timetable motion.
Things turned really sour when Clegg’s Tory backbench tormentors got to their feet. Malcolm Rifkind, whose speech against had helped sink the bill, told Clegg to embrace Lord Steel’s bill as it is ‘all he’s likely to get’. Clegg responded with disdain for the Steel bill. When Bernard Jenkin rose to ask a question on Clegg’s announcement Lib Dems will vote against the boundary changes, Clegg’s PPS Jo Swinson — sitting incongruously on the Tory row behind the front bench — shot him a contemptuous look.
On boundary changes for 2015 Clegg was emphatic: Lib Dem Ministers would all vote against them and ‘nothing will change my mind on that he declared’. When Jacob Rees-Mogg asked him how voting against government business squared with Cabinet collective responsibility, Clegg shot back that this convention would have to adjust to coalition.
The other notable thing was how rude Tory MPs were prepared to be to Clegg. Eleanor Laing quoted Clegg’s previous line that Lords and boundaries weren’t linked and declared that the DPM ‘can’t have been telling the truth on both occasions.’ Anne Main accused him of throwing his ‘toys out of the pram’ and Nadhim Zahawi, who has been loyal to the government on everything else, asked if Clegg was ‘just an all or nothing man?’ The whole thing left one in little doubt that the bad blood created by the issue is still in circulation.Tags: Harriet Harman, House of Lords reform, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Liberal Democrats, Malcolm Rifkind, Nick Clegg