David Cameron has confirmed this lunchtime that the boundary reforms will be pressed to a vote. Describing the plans that the Lib Dems are now set to reject as ‘sensible’, he said that they would be ‘put forward’ to MPs. As James reported yesterday, Conservative sources are not yet conceding defeat on this, hoping that something might turn up to ensure their passage through parliament. But the vote will lead to the extraordinary spectacle of Lib Dem ministers walking through the ‘no’ lobbies with Labour and then, according to party sources, resuming their positions on the front bench without any censure because these are exceptional circumstances. The Prime Minister gave a nod to this today when he told BBC Wales that ‘every party will have to make up its own mind how it votes’. It’s difficult to imagine that the dynamic between Lib Dem ministers and their Tory colleagues in departments won’t become incredibly awkward as a result of this orchestrated schism.
Some Lib Dems are wary of the long-term effects of this. The senior Lib Dem MP I quoted at the weekend said the party should knuckle down and support the boundary changes in the interests of the coalition. But Nick Clegg was so unequivocal yesterday that if my source continues to hold to this belief, he will be rebelling against his party as it rebels against the government.
Cameron also disputed claims by Nick Clegg that the Conservatives had broken their side of the contract on Lords reform. It would be nice if the parties moved on from who-said-what-when (although, if you’re curious, I’ve listed the key statements on Lords reform and boundaries here), but I doubt they will. In fact, when the Commons meets to vote on the boundaries, it’s likely MPs will still be quoting the coalition agreement at one another.