In recent weeks, Downing Street has been repeatedly told by Tory MPs that if proposals for an elected element in the House of Lords were brought back to the Commons, the next rebellion would be even bigger than the 91 who voted against second reading. Downing Street, as the Telegraph reported this morning, has now accepted that Lords reform will have to be dropped and there is talk of a formal announcement to this effect as early as Monday.
But, intriguingly, I understand that David Cameron does not intend to abandon efforts to get the boundary reforms through. This, as Isabel noted this morning, has the potential to cause a massive coalition row. One Lib Dem minister told me earlier that Cameron would be ‘killing’ Nick Clegg if he tried to force Liberal Democrat ministers not to vote against the boundary changes.
Indeed, one of the odd things about today is that there have been no sweeteners to make the loss of Lords reform more palatable to the Liberal Democrats. Those close to Clegg argue that he’ll need something to take to his party conference to show that he hasn’t simply been rolled by the Tories on this.