Posts Tagged ‘Lords reform’

The conventional wisdom is wrong: David Cameron and Nick Clegg are now bound even more tightly together

07/08/2012, 09:00:17 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Another pained press conference from Nick Clegg, another central plank of the Lib Dem’s beloved constitutional reform agenda disappears for a generation.

So farewell then Lords reform, we’ll see you in twenty-five years when all of the politicians who have witnessed first-hand the Lib Dem’s failure on the Lords and electoral reform, have passed from this parliamentary coil.

But, all this was known the moment 91 Tory backbenchers decided to use the Lords as an excuse to attack their leader. The votes weren’t there. The real news from Clegg’s study in sanctimonious defeat yesterday was confirmation of the tit for tat blocking of the Tories’ boundary review.

According to Lib Dem sources, Clegg attempted to mount a damage containment exercise when the extent of the Tory rebellion became obvious, sounding out MPs about the prospect of not vetoing the new boundaries.

As frustrated as Clegg was by the Tories, he privately accepted the position in which David Cameron has found himself. It’s a position Clegg empathises with and experiences himself with his own backbenches.

But the Lib Dem leader had to accept political reality. For all the fanciful recent talk of Vince Cable as a future leader of the party, the message went back to the Lib Dem leadership that there really might be regime change if Clegg did not strike back at the Tories.

The immediate reaction to this spat among much of the commentariat is to conclude that the coalition is headed for the rocks.

Certainly the massed off-the-record ranks of Tory backbenchers have done their bit to promote this notion with blood curdling talk of revenge on Clegg for the boundary betrayal.

But the reality is that the leaders of the Tories and Lib Dems are now bound even more tightly together. Assuming the projections of Tory advantage from the boundary review are correct, then David Cameron will need his Lib Dem coalition partners all the more if he is to stay in office after the next election.


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Whip’s Notebook: Oh what a night

12/07/2012, 11:00:41 AM

by Jon Ashworth

Supporters of a democratic House of Lords can take cheer that on Tuesday night the Commons voted by 462 to 124 give the House of Lords reform bill a second reading. But what a night. What a rebellion.

92 Tory MPs rebelled against their leader’s position. That’s a bigger rebellion than the recent EU referendum vote and almost the biggest Tory rebellion post-war.

From the start of the debate on Monday, Labour MPs have witnessed a slow motion car crash unfold for the Tory whips and No 10 which culminated, apparently, in an angry exhausted red faced Prime Minister angrily jabbing the chest of a leading rebel late at night in the corridors of the Commons. No wonder influential Lib Dem blogs are comparing David Cameron to John Major.

Should last night’s rebellion have come as much of a surprise to the prime minister and his Liberal Democrat colleagues?

Probably not.

For weeks Tory MPs have sidled up to me in the tea room and elsewhere asking for guidance on what Labour’s tactics would be. Fortunately our position was and had been always clear: to vote against the programme motion but support democratising the Lords and so vote in favour of the bill at second reading.

It’s been less straightforward on the government side with question marks over whether the government would win a vote on curtailing the timetable for debate, the so called programme motion.

On Monday, rumour had it the Tory whips were so worried about losing the programme motion that they were encouraging dissident MPs to vote in favour or abstain but rebel on second reading. But the Tory whips’ strategy was soon to be shot to pieces.

Early on Tuesday afternoon, Nick Clegg was still defending the programme motion but minutes later the Leader of the House Sir George Young opening the debate was forced to withdraw the very same programme motion.

Sir George tried to blame the Labour opposition for government’s failure to build support for the programme motion, an incredible claim later torpedoed by leading Tory rebel Jesse Norman who helpfully pointed out to Sir George that the government had been forced to withdraw it due to opposition on the Tory benches.


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Flawed bill, floored coalition

11/07/2012, 11:03:15 AM

by Phil Hunt

Lords reform faces a hugely uncertain future with the failure of the Coalition government to even put its timetable motion to the vote in the House of Commons last night. The humiliating climb down was a sight to behold. As the Coalition partners slugged it out over a long two day debate, it became abundantly clear that a mass of Tory MPs would not support the Bill. Equally clear during the debate, was the catastrophic failure by Nick Clegg to produce a coherent piece of legislation.

Whatever the controversies over whether the second chamber should be 80% or 100% elected, once only terms of 15 years or the place of bishops, the focus of most MPs was on the powers of an elected Lords. And the lack of any convincing argument from Ministers as to how legislative gridlock was to be avoided between two elected chambers was rapidly exposed.

Potentially, the House of Lords has a lot of muscle. The pre-legislative scrutiny undertaken by the Joint Select Committee it reported back: “if the Lords chose to use its powers, it would be one of the most powerful second chambers in the world”. Yet it hasn’t done this for many years, precisely because its current members know they lack democratic legitimacy. Conventions have developed to help Peers exercise a voluntary constraint. An all or mostly elected chamber will give short shrift to that.

One of the more fanciable claims made by the government about its Lords Reform Bill was that Mr Clegg had dealt with the fear of many MPs that Commons primacy would be challenged by an elected second chamber. In fact, all the Bill does is to say that the Parliament Acts will apply. Without the conventions however, there will be little to hold back a confident and assertive House.


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Clegg blinks

10/07/2012, 07:58:41 PM

Or at least he is trying to blink. Whether his party lets him is another matter. Word reaches Uncut from the yellow side of the fence that the Lib Dem leadership are engaged a tentative operation to defuse the bomb they carefully primed, and pull back from vetoing the Tories new parliamentary boundaries.

It had been assumed that the Lib Dems would take their revenge on the Tories for sinking Lords reform by blocking the new parliamentary constituency boundaries. But, after some emollient words from the prime minister earlier in the day, a commitment to get something through in Autumn and perhaps an extra biscuit with his cup of tea, Nick Clegg wants to work it out with the Tories.

Talk of tit for tat retaliation is being played down as the Lib Dems and Tory press teams try to pin the blame on Labour before the watching gallery of aghast Lib Dem activists.

Clegg still has his eye on passing a Lords reform bill in the Autumn, either stripped down to resemble Lord Steel’s token effort at reform or potentially something more ambitious with a firm commitment to a referendum after the first election to the new chamber but before the second.

Why the emboldened Tory rebels would put down their cudgels in three months is unclear. Certainly there’s no love lost for David Cameron who was being openly ridiculed by jubilant rebels as they celebrated in the bars of Westminster.

But Clegg still thinks he can salvage his legacy with a constitutional bill that could nominally have the prefix ‘historic’ appended, and as a result, David Cameron seems to have been granted the benefit of the doubt from his junior partner yet again.

The next 24 hours will determine whether Nick Clegg can sell his conciliation to the beaten and battered Lib Dems or whether this time, there will actually be a yellow reckoning with the Tories, regardless of Nick Clegg’s dreams of the history books.

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If the coalition really does fracture after tonight’s vote, will Labour be ready?

10/07/2012, 07:00:35 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Tonight’s the night. The Commons votes on House of Lords reform and a series of dominoes will start to topple.

First, the government’s attempt to limit debate on the House of Lords reform bill through a “programme motion” will be defeated by a coalition of Labour and Tory votes.

It will mean Tory rebels in the Commons can filibuster the House of Lords bill, and the rest of the government’s legislative programme, into extinction. Faced with this threat, the prospect of the government throwing in the towel on House of Lords reform tomorrow morning seems almost a racing certainty.

Second, the Lib Dems will hit back by scuppering the Tories’ plans for revised parliamentary boundaries. It’s hard to see how the Lib Dem leadership could hold their party together without some retribution against the Tories. Again, on balance this seems a highly likely scenario.

Third, notwithstanding many Tories’ secret yearning to bury the new boundaries, there would be an explosion of Tory backbench, even frontbench, rage at their junior partners.

The price demanded by angry Tories would be new, true blue Conservative policies defined by the inability of the Lib Dems to support them. Lists are already being drawn up. The word “Europe” features heavily.

This is where there would be a speculative if not impossible next step. The final domino. Relations would become so strained between the government partners that they mutually lose the will to go on. They row. They snipe. And finally, they vote against each other. It would culminate in the death knell of all broken parliamentary partnerships, a failed vote of no confidence.

In the chaos of the ensuing election, out of the wreckage of the coalition, maybe, just maybe, a Labour government with a small majority would emerge.


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Time for policy in the pub with Sadiq Khan

09/07/2012, 07:27:19 PM

The government might be engaged in a slow motion, policy car crash over Lords reform, but could you do better? Really?

OK, it’s highly likely that Stevie Wonder at the wheel of a McLaren, going the wrong way round the Hanger Lane Gyratory System, would be a case study in safety compared to the attempts of this government’s business managers to steer Lords reform through parliament. But how much better could you do?

Well, here’s your chance to show the world. It’s that time of the month again. It’s policy in the pub with the Pragmatic Radicalism funsters. This month, the topic is justice and constitutional reform with our shadow justice secretary, Sadiq Khan in the chair.

You know the format – 90 seconds on your policy idea, quick-fire questions and then the popular vote. It will all be happening tomorrow night, the 10th of July, at the Barley Mow Pub (upstairs restaurant), 104 Horseferry Road, Westminster, London, SW1P 2EE, between 1900 and 2100.

The winning idea will be automatically adopted as the first policy in Labour’s next manifesto.

Alright, that last bit isn’t quite true. But the winner does get a slot on Uncut to share their insight with the viewing public, so that’s nearly as good.

See you in the pub.

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Wednesday News Review

22/06/2011, 06:57:54 AM

Please no return to the bad old days

Several hundred people gathered near interfaces close to the Newtownards Road. There were reports that three shots had been fired and a photographer had been shot in the leg. Michael Copeland, a member of the Ulster Unionist Assembly, said missiles had been hurled between the opposing sides. Police were also attacked with petrol bombs and stones. A major riot on Monday night in which police were shot at by loyalists in Northern Ireland was blamed on the Ulster Volunteer Force yesterday, despite the paramilitary group being on ceasefire. Before last night’s violence, political leaders appealed for calm. On Monday, about 500 people were involved in disturbances when there was hand-to-hand fighting and petrol bombs were thrown. Police said there were gun shots from the republican Short Strand area, while loyalists also opened fire. UVF members were blamed for starting the violence by attacking homes in the Roman Catholic enclave. – Daily Telegraph

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness have condemned the riots, as well as a separate bomb attack aimed at police in west Belfast. Mr Robinson said: “At this time when many are working hard to build a better and brighter future for all in Northern Ireland, it is disappointing and deeply concerning to see this level of violence return to our streets. We have given clear commitments to continue to deliver progress for all within the community including in those areas most at need. This type of behaviour damages the local economy and unfairly mars the reputation of the community.” Mr McGuinness said: “A small minority of individuals are clearly determined to destabilise our communities. They will not be allowed to drag us back to the past. I call on all those involved to take a step back and to remain calm. I support the efforts of community leaders on all sides who have been working on the ground to restore calm in east Belfast.” The sudden upsurge in violence is being described as the worst the city has seen in years and loyalist community workers blamed simmering tensions at the notorious sectarian interface. – Belfast Telegraph

Cameron’s tough stance in tatters

Mr Cameron’s promise of automatic six-month sentences for anyone using a knife to intimidate or threaten also falls far short of his election pledge to jail anyone caught with a blade. But there was a bigger shock buried in the fine print of the reforms as it emerged that more than 3,000 criminals and suspected offenders will avoid jail each year as part of the Conservative-led coalition’s package. About 1,300 would have been jailed on remand but will now remain at liberty until their case is tried in a bid to save money. Around 250 ex-cons who would currently be put back in jail each year for reoffending or breaking the terms of their release will also be allowed to stay at large. Up to 800 foreign criminals will be freed early or let off with a caution on the condition that they go home, raising fears they could simply slip back into the country. Mr Cameron was desperate to talk tough yesterday after an internal Downing Street poll showed that the sentencing U-turn row has destroyed public faith in the Tories’ ability to tackle crime. – Daily Mirror

Ed’s message to Murdoch

Ed Miliband has told business leaders that Labour wants a “strong relationship” with them but there must be “responsibility” on pay at the top. The Labour leader told the Times CEO Summit in London: “I want to celebrate wealth creation in this country.” But he said there was an “issue about rewards at the top” while people on lower incomes had seen wages stagnate. He also backed his shadow chancellor Ed Balls’s call for a temporary VAT cut to help boost the economy. But he said scrapping the 50p top rate of income tax – paid on earnings over £150,000 – was “not a priority for us”. Mr Miliband addressed an audience including News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch and chief executives of Goldman Sachs, Santander and Vodafone, among others. – BBC News

Labour leader Ed Miliband has called for “responsibility” on pay from those at the top of society as he addressed a summit of business leaders in London. Mr Miliband said Labour wanted a “strong relationship” with business and promised there would be “no going back to the penal tax rates of the 1970s” if he won power. But he warned that the credibility of the free enterprise system was under threat if middle and lower-income workers see their living standards stagnate while the richest continue to enjoy ever-increasing wealth. Speaking at The Times CEO Summit to an audience including News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch and chief executives of companies such as Goldman Sachs, Santander and Vodafone – as well as Lord Mandelson, who famously said New Labour was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich” – Mr Miliband warned that there was “an issue about rewards at the top” in Britain. – Daily Mirror

Labour Lords take on Clegg’s plans

Nick Clegg’s plans to create an elected House of Lords suffered a big setback last night when Labour vowed to oppose the shake-up and peers from all parties lined up to attack it. Labour was accused of playing politics as it rejected Liberal Democrat pleas to set aside the differences between the two parties to force through Mr Clegg’s proposal for the first elected peers to be chosen in 2015. The Coalition Government wants the 828-member House replaced by 240 elected members, 60 appointed crossbenchers, 12 bishops and a small number of appointed ministers. But Labour favours a 100 per cent elected second chamber. The Deputy Prime Minister has led the charge for Lords reform. Although David Cameron has backed the change, there are doubts that the Conservatives will devote the energy and Parliamentary time needed to force through Mr Clegg’s Bill before the next general election against strong opposition in both Houses of Parliament. – the Independent

Mandelson shows his support

Ed Miliband needs to show more courage as a leader if he is to unite the Labour party behind him, Peter Mandelson has suggested. Speaking at a meeting of the Labour pressure group Progress, the former first secretary of state warned his party against returning to the infighting which characterised the Labour party during the 1980s. He said: ‘We need to take a few risks; talk more directly to the country; be more innovative and courageous. Our leader is a leader of the country, not of the party’s sections and factions, and it is to the country he needs to be given the space to prove himself.” Lord Mandelson’s support comes despite his backing of David Miliband during the Labour leadership election. –

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Wednesday News Review

01/06/2011, 06:28:39 AM

Another inquiry for Huhne

Chris Huhne is facing a second potentially damaging inquiry after the elections watchdog announced it was reviewing all his expenses from the general election in response to allegations he broke the rules. The electoral commission has launched a case review into the energy secretary’s election expenses after receiving detailed claims that he failed to declare all his spending. The matter, which could be referred to the police, comes as Essex police prepares to conclude its inquiry into allegations that Huhne broke the law by asking his wife to take points he incurred for speeding. Last week, the electoral commission rejected a complaint due to insufficient evidence from two Liberal Democrat councillors in Huhne’s Eastleigh constituency that he made false declarations in his election expenses. But on Tuesday an official case review was launched after more detailed allegations were made by the Sunlight Centre for Open Democracy, which is run by Paul Staines and Harry Cole, who also writes for the rightwing Guido Fawkes blog. – the Guardian

Beleaguered Energy Secretary Chris Huhne was under fresh pressure last night after an investigation was launched into allegations that he broke strict spending rules in last year’s general election. The Electoral Commission said it was beginning an inquiry into claims that the Lib Dem Cabinet minister failed to declare spending on leaflets that would have taken him over the limit allowed for candidates in a general election. The complaint is also likely to be referred to the police. The Sunlight Centre for Open Politics, which lodged the complaint, said it had found evidence of a potential overspend. The Electoral Commission said an initial examination of the complaint suggested the ‘possibility of an offence under Representation of the People Act 1983’.  It will now hold a full case review. – Daily Mail

The allegation, which refers to hundreds of pounds in printing and staffing costs and the development of a website, will be reviewed before the commission decides whether to undertake a full inquiry. It is separate from a complaint made about the Energy Secretary’s election expenses by two Liberal Democrat councillors, which was rejected on Friday. A spokesman for the commission said: “The commission received an allegation regarding Chris Huhne MP’s 2010 general election expenses on 25 May. “Following an initial assessment of the information, we have now started a case review into the matter. The review will look to establish the facts of the case, firstly for the purposes of transparency and also for possible future guidance.” Last night, Mr Huhne said: “I have full confidence that my agent has declared my election expenses correctly and I look forward to this complaint being rejected as roundly as the last one.” – Daily Telegraph

What happened to defending the NHS Dave?

Hundreds of hospital beds are being axed, despite David Cameron’s vow to defend the National Health Service. A leaked memo from a health trust boss revealed some of England’s biggest hospitals are cutting up to 10% of beds as they make £20billion of savings. Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is to shed about 200, while Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust loses 80. In London, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust expects to cut up to 160 – or 10% – of beds as it saves £70million. The dramatic scale of the cuts was revealed in a memo from Trust boss Claire Perry. Christina McAnea, of Unison, said: “The myth that the NHS is protected from cuts needs to be exposed.” Two weeks ago the PM said there were no cuts. – Daily Mirror

Peers prepare for the long haul

Four-fifths of peers are opposed to a wholly or mainly elected upper House, a poll has suggested. Deep-seated opposition to the reforms, seen as a key objective for the Liberal Democrats, will worry senior figures in the coalition government as they assess the difficulties of pushing change through parliament. The research was carried out by the Times newspaper. Only 310 of the Lords’ 789 members responded but the newspaper said the proportions were roughly accurate with the political make-up of the second chamber. Eighty-one per cent of peers are happy with the Lords as it is at present. Lib Dem peers are divided on the issue. Nearly two-thirds believe the Lords functions effectively in its current form, but a majority support a large elected element. The government could use the Parliament Act to override a rejection of the reforms in the Lords – but nearly three-quarters of peers believe taking this step would be unconstitutional. –

Labour loses it’s lead for the first time in seven months

Labour has lost its lead over the Tories for the first time in seven months as Ed Miliband struggles to make an impact with the public, according to ComRes’s poll for The Independent. It shows the parties running neck and neck following a turbulent political month in which Labour was trounced in elections to the Scottish Parliament and recorded a mixed performance in contests for English councils. The poll finds that Labour support has dropped two points since the last ComRes survey to 37 per cent, putting the party level with the Tories, whose support has fallen by one point. Liberal Democrats will be relieved that their recent dramatic collapse in popularity appears to have ended, with their party’s backing recovering by one point to 12 per cent. Support for other parties, including the SNP, Ukip and the Greens, is up by two points to 14 per cent. Labour’s lead rose to a high of nine points after the Chancellor, George Osborne, set out plans for spending cuts in the autumn, but has dropped away since then. Its continuing failure to break through will dismay party strategists and could raise questions about Mr Miliband’s leadership. – the Independent

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Sunday News Review

15/05/2011, 06:17:28 AM

Chris Hunhe’s dishonourable conduct

Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne’s Cabinet future was in doubt last night after sensational details were revealed of a phone call he made to the person he allegedly persuaded to take his speeding points so he could avoid a driving ban. The phone call, which is corroborated by taped evidence, flies in the face of the Liberal Democrat MP’s repeated public denials of the allegations. It suggests that in private the Energy Secretary is involved in a desperate attempt to cover up the truth to save his political career. In the phone call, which took place in recent weeks before The Mail on Sunday revealed the allegation last week, Mr Huhne warned the person who took the penalty points not to let ‘the genie’ out of the bottle by revealing what really happened. – Mail on Sunday

Mr Huhne’s political career is in the balance following the allegations made last week by Vicky Pryce, whom he left after 26 years marriage for a bisexual Liberal Democrat activist. Senior Conservatives have already questioned whether he wants to remain in his post after he launched a “theatrical” outburst against David Cameron and George Osborne in a Cabinet meeting over their refusal to denounce tactics used by the No campaign in the AV referendum. The claims made by Mrs Pryce, a respected economist, who accused the Energy and Climate Change Secretary of persuading “someone close to him” to accept penalty points for a speeding offence on his behalf are potentially far more damaging. The identity of the person is unclear. A source close to Mr Huhne said he had no desire to pick a fight with his ex-wife in public but would seek to persuade her to desist making further allegations for the sake of their children. – Sunday Telegraph

‘No mercy’ for the NHS

A senior adviser to David Cameron says the NHS could be improved by charging patients and will be transformed into a “state insurance provider, not a state deliverer” of care. Mark Britnell, who was appointed to a “kitchen cabinet” advising the prime minister on reforming the NHS, told a conference of executives from the private sector that future reforms would show “no mercy” to the NHS and offer a “big opportunity” to the for-profit sector. The revelations come on the eve of an important speech by the prime minister on the future of the NHS, during which he is expected to try to allay widespread fears that the reforms proposed in health secretaryAndrew Lansley‘s health and social care bill would lead to privatisation. It has been suggested that Cameron may even announce an extension to the “pause” in the progress of the bill until after the party conference season, amid growing tensions on the issue within the coalition government. – the Observer

Mark Britnell, who has been advising the PM on reforms, revealed that the NHS could turn into a US-style insurance system. The former Department of Health bureaucrat said he believed the NHS would leave operations and other procedures to the private sector, with the taxpayer picking up the bill. Mr Britnell, head of health at accountants KPMG, visited Downing Street last week to advise on NHS policy. Speaking to bosses of private health firms, Mr Britnell said: “In future, the NHS will be a state insurance provider, not a deliverer.” He added that a boom time for private health companies was around the corner once the NHS had to compete for services and added: “The NHS will be shown no mercy and the time to take advantage will be the next couple of years.” Labour claimed Mr Britnell’s comments exposed the government’s true intentions. – Sunday Mirror
Glasman undermines Blue Labour project with personal attacks

Maurice Glasman and Ed Miliband do not think as one. But Miliband’s Favourite Thinker™ is an undoubted influence on the Labour party — and, as such, it’s worth tuning into his ideas from time to time, if you have a tolerance for such things. Glasman’s“Blue Labour” philosophy has already enjoyed heavy exposure this year, and he has an interview in today’s Times to explain it even further. If you’re not minded to buy, borrow or steal a copy of the Thunderer, then here are a few observations. First, it’s striking just how much Glasman dwells on the personal. “If you want to know everything that was wrong about Scottish Labour and Labour,” he urges, “then just look at the career of Gordon Brown. He was completely cynical in his calculations, then he dressed it up as the moral high ground.” And Glasman’s brand of armchair psychology even stretches the current Labour leader, whom he suggests “still feels completely guilty” about defeating his brother to the throne. He adds that MiliE has “a real mixture of gentleness, of spirit and stubborness, that is perfect for this moment.” – the Spectator

Ed Miliband’s political guru sparked controversy yesterday by claiming the Labour leader is still racked with guilt after defeating older brother David in the race to succeed Gordon Brown. And Labour peer Lord Glasman poured salt into David Miliband’s wounds, saying he deserved to lose because of his cold, ‘unrelational’ personality. The comments by Lord Glasman, who devised Ed Miliband’s ‘Blue Labour’ initiative aimed at persuading working-class voters to return to the party, provoked an angry Labour backlash. A friend of former Foreign Secretary David Miliband said: ‘Lord Glasman must be the only person who thinks Ed has more charisma than David. He’s warm and witty – and unlike Ed does not sound like a robot with flu.’ The peer, an eccentric Jewish academic who smokes roll-ups, does not eat vegetables and lives above a second-hand clothes shop in East London, told the Times newspaper that ‘gentle’ Ed could win the next Election but must stop fretting about beating his brother. ‘What he has not come to terms with is that he had to do that. He still feels completely guilty. He hasn’t yet had his Man of Destiny moment,’ Lord Glasman said. – Mail on Sunday

Clegg and Osborne unlikely bedfellows on Lords reforms

George Osborne is to become an unlikely ally of Nick Clegg in the battle to reform the House of Lords, as the coalition prepares to steamroller plans through before the next election. Despite Tory/Lib Dem relations souring in recent weeks, the Chancellor is prepared to support the Deputy Prime Minister’s reform plans. Mr Clegg will use the Parliament Act to deliver one of the coalition’s most far-reaching policies. The developments come after pleas by Lib Dem members of the Cabinet to David Cameron to force Mr Osborne to be more consensual – although some close to Mr Clegg may view it as mere tactics. This week Mr Clegg will present a draft Bill to Parliament on replacing the House of Lords. However, in the wake of his defeat in the referendum on the voting system, the Lib Dem leader is anxious to avoid seeming obsessed with constitutional matters at a time of deep spending cuts. Instead, two Tory ministers – Mark Harper and Lord Strathclyde – will take to the airwaves to sell the policy. – the Independent

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