Tucked away on page 15 of today’s Times, there’s an insightful story about Lords reform (£) by Roland Watson. And it’s insightful not just for the new information it
contains, but also for the familiar truth it confirms: reforming the House of Lords is going to be one helluva difficult task.
You see, while both halves of the coalition committed to a fully- or ‘mainly-elected’ upper chamber in their respective manifestos, only one half of the coalition is particularly eager
to force it through now. As the Times story says, Nick Clegg’s proposed Bill has already endured a ‘serious re-writing’ to make it more palatable all round, but even so:
‘Tories are making clear to Mr Clegg that it will be up to him to build cross-party consensus for reform. There was “zero enthusiasm” among David Cameron’s inner
circle for spending political capital on a measure that could leave the coalition’s legislative programme gridlocked for two years, according to well-placed sources.’
Which is probably why Clegg appears to have started dialling down expectations ahead of the draft Bill’s publication in March. Last month, he gave a speech in which the Lords was described as ‘one boat that urgently needs rocking’. Yet
by the time of his New Year’s address, it wasn’t being mentioned at all.
As with the cross-party talks over social care, the question is whether the Lib
Dems will work with Labour to help achieve their aims. Were he feeling particularly assertive, Clegg could certainly find common cause with Ed Miliband on this — but, then again, finding
common cause with Miliband must be an increasingly poisonous proposition.