The Lib Dem manifesto committed the party to a fully elected House of Lords. The Tory manifesto talked about a ‘mainly-elected’ second chamber and in 2007 David Cameron voted for ‘the other place’ to be 80 percent elected (interestingly, George Osborne voted for a fully elected Lords). The coalition agreement committed the government to a ‘wholly or mainly elected upper chamber’. So it is hard to see how a Lords that retained a twenty percent appointed element could be portrayed as a major Lib Dem triumph as, according to today’s Guardian, the coalition wants.
There has been talk in Westminster that Clegg’s consolation prize if the AV referendum is defeated will be a fully elected Lords, a long-standing Liberal aim. But there is an obstacle to this: a not insignificant group of Tory MPs who would die in the ditch to prevent the Lords becoming fully elected.
One of the stories of next year is going to be Tory restlessness as Cameron offers concessions to Clegg in an attempt to help shore up his coalition partner’s position. But anger over Lords’ reform could be particularly intense as it involves matters of grave constitutional principle.