Coffee House

Cameron continues to stick to boundary reforms

6 August 2012

Perhaps the most intriguing part of Nick Clegg’s decision not to support the 2015 boundary changes as a ‘penalty’  for Lords reform not happening is that Downing Street is insisting on pushing on with the matter. I’m told that Number 10 will ‘do everything we can to persuade everyone we can to vote for them.’ When I put it to this senior Cameroon that this was futile given that with Lib Dem ministers and MPs voting against, there was no chance of getting it through the Commons, the source said ‘is it feasible [to get the boundary changes through], yes’.

There are two possibilities here. One is that Cameron is pursuing a Micawber strategy, hoping that something will turn up which will allow him to get these changes through. The second is that they think there is a possibility of gathering up enough votes from the minor parties to win the vote. It is hard to see how they could make this happen, there aren’t enough DUP MPs for their support alone to make the difference, but if they thought it was impossible, they would surely just accept the Clegg amendment delaying the changes.

The other intriguing question today is how this changes the relations between the coalition partners. On the one hand, it should make things much worse—there are a lot of angry Tories out there today. But on the other, it makes it more likely that Cameron will need the Lib Dems if he is to form a government after the next election. I suspect, though, that the Conservative party would, if it was the largest party after the next election but shy of a majority, prefer to take the chance of a minority government rather than form another coalition.

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Show comments
  • michael

    Rent – a – Lib.,. looks very expensive.

  • Boudicca_Icenii

    “If the Conservative Party is the largest after the next election but shy of a majority”
    Dream on sunshine. Cameron’s toast and – unless the Conservative Elite dispose of him, so is the Party after 2015.

  • Steerage

    The other possibility – only that – is that Cameron wants to show the Liberals up for what they are, deceitful ideologues who want to deny deny equal votes to the British people.
    And, that if an election is to be forced you couldn’t find a worse issue to blame the Liberals for than this act of discrimination that will ensure more MPs with snouts at the trough – if they are so inclined, like LibDems e.g. David Laws.
    BTW it is amazing how feeble the BBC interviewers have been testing Clegg/Hughes’ posturing against the words in the coalition agreement.
    Roll on ‘Today’ tomorrow morning (Tuesday am) when Clegg/Miliband will be their dream ticket.

  • 2trueblue

    Lets see if Cameron will stick to it. I hope he will. Frankly I will not vote for him again whatever the outcome.

  • Grumpy Optimist

    The big mistake was to posture and so mix together the cutting of the number of MPs (hardly essential and of course having the effect of upsetting a lot of Conservative MPs) with the essential of getting equally sized constituencies. Another piece of PR driven policy that is now foundering and Cameron cock up. It makes you want to weep.


    Best option will be a Tory majority at the next election.
    This is feasible. Cut taxes increase welfare cuts , cut immigration push Grove further on Education and generally read what Mrs Thatcher did.

  • rosie

    In this coalition the liberals have a disproportionate number of jobs, paid and privileged, as compared with the conservatives. Ironic, when you consider how they bleat on about proportionality all the time. For that reason they are going to vote it through when it comes. They possibly aren’t ever going to be in office again, and they aren’t going to blow it all now, not even for a principle, and their opposition to boundary reform aint no principle.
    That doesn’t mean they won’t huff and puff, and of course posture, right up to the last minute. Just as they did with tuition fees – and that was a principle they dumped.

  • Tony

    The vast majority of people in this country have not the slightest interest in Clegg’s wish list – it’s time to tell the Lib Dems to like it or lump it, and if this fractures the coalition – well, so what ?

  • Austin Barry

    What a disgraceful piece of Liberal ordure Clegg is. Worse than the booze-sodden Charles Kennedy, the paedophile Cyril Smith, the bugger Thorpe and the odd-idea-of-hair-tonic Mark Oaten. A total disgrace to the party of founding whoremonger William Gladstone.

    • Andrew SW18

      “…odd-idea-of-hair-tonic…” made me laugh out loud, and startled the dog. Still, I don’t think Gladstone SOLD whores, but rather…

      • Alan Eastwood

        Austin, I take it you are a Lib Dem then?


      More genius from Austin Barry! When’s the book being published?

    • Daniel Maris

      What was Asquith – a horse-botherer?

  • Nick

    Or its favourable to Labour and the Tories at the expense of the Lib Dems

  • Gouldus

    Whip it – it’s in the manifesto and sack all the LibDem Ministers who abstain or vote against.

    • David Ossitt

      And tell them they will be sacked prior to the vote, including the bastard Clegg.

    • Pete

      That would mean the end of the coalition in 2013, followed by a GE that the Blues would probably lose.

    • Mynydd

      Yes that’s it, sack all LibDem Ministers, do you really think Mr Cameron be prepared to form a minority administration, he had the chance once but didn’t have the bottle for it. Unfortunately for the country, for the remaining years of this coalition government, Mr Cameron is dead man walking, If Mr Clegg like a policy his backbenchers will not, if his backbenchers like it Mr Clegg will not.

  • Magnolia

    Clegg looked like he was reading someone else’s lines when he gave his statement. I wonder who wrote his notes? Simon Hughes on PM was spinning that reducing the number of elected HOP members (boundaries review) without similar reductions in the unelected HOL members (HOL reform) was undemocratic. No mention of how the boundary review sets about removing the unfairness of present seats being easier for some parties to win. It seems to me that the Lord Ashdown ‘progressive alliance’ faction is now in ascendence. I would imagine that they’ve had secret talks with Ed M but did they include Nick Clegg or was he given an ultimatum? The Lib Dems are in danger of sounding more irrelevant to the general public that ever but they’ve got in to a bad habit of ditching their leader at the drop of a hat. We know Clegg is an EU stooge but is Clegg also now just a Lib Dem leader puppet?

  • Boo80

    My bet is that they will go for the Boundary reform, with a three line whip.
    Just as they did for the lords reform.
    The difference with this reform is that the libdem back benchers can’t bring this down. (Although it is still posible if Tory back benchers break rank.)

    This would leave the Lib dem ministers with a choice, vote against this or be fired.
    Consider all the things they’ve voted through (Tuition fees for one). Will they really resign over reducing the number of MPs, and equal size contituencys?

    Ok this will probably happen, but they would suffer politically, and their credibility would be wrecked and this is what might make they yield.

    • realfish

      Agreed. It will be interesting to see if Nadine will vote for the abolition of her constituency.

  • Rockin Ron

    This is just positioning from both sides, so I wouldn’t put too much credence on what is coming out from Clegg or Cameron. Fact is, both are hopelessly out of their depth in Government so they are clueless when faced with an issues such as this. Also, it needs courage to stick to your principles and as both Clegg and Cameron are unprincipled, they don’t really know what they should do – the gut instinct is missing. What a shower – so petty, short term and public school playground tactics. What have we done to deserve Clegg and Cameron?

  • Mark M

    Funny. Clegg said the Coalition Agreement formed a contract with the British people, but I don’t remember having an opportunity to accept or reject that contract. Anyone else?

    • Nick

      Remember your place in society. You shall do as Clegg and Cameron tell you.

      Not that they will do the same. That’s why they exempted themselves from Money Laundering regulations

  • Bob Melton

    ‘The Clegg amendment’? To what, exactly?

  • Joe Ashley

    Go for boundary changes with a 3 line whip and see the colour of libdems money

    • Faceless Bureaucrat


  • james102

    The third option is he wants to raise the publics’ awareness
    of how unfair the present system is. Labour and the LibDems are likely to be
    forced to defend the democratically indefensible.

    • Pete

      It would be pretty funny to see Cameron trying to spin the line ‘we can’t win under the present system…so we want to move the goalposts.’ The only people who think the boundaries are unfair are Tories. It’s been analysed to death. The current boundaries are not unfair, it’s just that Tory votes are not distributed widely enough under FPTP. 18 years of shitting on The North, Scotland, Wales and the Midlands has left the CP as a predominantly rural, English party.

      • Paul

        Blair’s last election got him a majority of 66; Cameron won more votes in the last GE, and is reduced to falling 20 short of a majority – that is simply unfair.
        Typical of Labour that they rig the 2005 Boundary Review, use their majority to lodge Bercow in as Speaker, get as many people hooked on state handouts/jobs as possible so they can say “Tories will take your handout/job from you” at elections.

      • Mr 0a

        “The current boundaries are not unfair, it’s just that Tory votes are not distributed widely enough under FPTP.”

        No it’s that in some constituencies there are more people. It could end up in advantage/disadvantage for either party but this is fundamentally unfair on the voters who have a vote that counts for less in some areas compared to others.

        Take a look at the different number of voters (note not Tories or Labour – voters) in each constituency:

  • paul rivers

    Without boundary reform a majority labour govt not requiring libdem support is much more likely because of the asymmetrical swing characteristics. With an overall Conservative majority very difficult, even with boundary changes, the libdems chances of a future coalition would be improved by reform. Clegg is a muppet.

  • Andy

    No one, in their right minds, would ever go into coalition with the LibDems. They are a bunch of dishonest and dishonourable liars. There is no link between Boundary Review and House of Lords Reform. Read the agreement to see that. The Tories need to exact revenge and that could be by bring forward a bill to solve the West Lothian Question.

    • David Ossitt

      Nice one Andy.

      • tele_machus

        Yes Andy
        Nice lies just like Osbourne
        George Osborne, the chancellor, significantly more than Clegg, has tried to pin the blame for the collapse of Lords reform on Labour. “We have not been able to proceed on Lords reform, frankly, because there is opposition in Parliament and the opportunism of the Labour party.”
        Osbourne thinks the coalition is strong and opines that the government would use the parliamentary time freed up by the withdrawal of the Lords plans to put forward proposals on jobs and growth.
        “I think we have got to use this moment as an opportunity to focus 110% on the economy – which is what the country wants.”
        Well why the hell dont you get on and pursue this priority of the coalition now?

    • tele_machus

      No link in the written word but a link in that if the ’22 wish to withdraw democratic voting to the Lords, then to reduce the number of voted MP’s we would reduce net democracy in terms of Parliament as a whole.
      Further it is disingenuous to say that there is no political link between the two.
      Who would respect Nick Clegg and the LibDems if they took the Lords setback without some demonstration of their own independent stance.
      The Lords was painful for them. The boundary issue is painful for the Tories.
      Good on the LibDems

      • Pete

        Spot on. The Tories want their cake and they want to eat it.

        • AdemAljo

          And you…

          Your are the bilge that builds in the wake of the dead sheep caught in the fallen branch of political expression, floating in the river of intellectual thought.

          • Pete

            Hey I’m just loving this Tory petulance over their little gerrymandering wheeze falling apart. 13 years in opposition and yet still no party discipline. CMD is already in John Major territory where authority over his backbenchers is concerned.

            • AdemAljo

              You’re not wrong. Ideologically we’re not in the best situation regarding party discipline, but one cannot simply ignore the additional petulance of the LibDon’ts when they don’t get what they want, no matter how incomprehensibly stupid the request.

              • Pete

                I’ve always thought going into coalition with the LD’s was a mistake. A minority govt followed by another GE 6 months later and the CP would have a majority now. Cameron was just too desperate for the prize.

                • AdemAljo

                  That is exactly what I said in a conversation I was having this evening.

        • Mr 0a

          How can the massive differences in the electorate in each constituency be fair?

          Check here:

          This is unfair whatever party persuasion you are. It would be perhaps more honest to say you don’t care about each vote counting equally, and that you’d be happy for a Labour vote to (say) count twice?

          It will be interesting to see Miliband defend this one – the silence has been deafening so far!

      • AdemAljo

        Hold your yellow (or, God forbid, red) horses there, tele_machus.

        Clegg, the hypocrite-in-chief, has been monumentally infantile about his decision to back down from boundary review. Your point about the disingenuousness of the link between Lords Reform and Boundary review is is in itself disingenuous, as we all should know by now that they were not linked and bartered for in the Coalition agreement.

        Democracy, rather fortunately for individuals of a certain intellectual capability, is not measured as being proportional to the number of MPs sitting in parliament, and I cannot bring myself to emphasise how much I want to launch into a tirade of personal attacks on you for suggesting that it is ‘net democracy’. That is an utterly, utterly, utterly stupid thing to say.

        AS a closing point, it is fundamentally crude, hypocritical, illogical and undemocratic for Clegg to have pushed so hard for Lords Reform while also agreeing on boundary review. Clegg supports electoral reform and simplification of Westminster through a reduction in the number of MPs, something in his original manifesto, but at the same time Clegg’s ridiculous bill for Lords reform called for a massive influx of elected representatives, thereby cancelling out the reduction of MPs by introducing a whole new bunch of talentless wankers to fill up the other place.

        Get off the bandwagon. If you hate the tories so much, stop reading the Spectator. I believe Comment is Free is looking for journalists.

        • tele_machus

          Shoot the messenger again
          Suggest you look at the articles and interview transcripts from Simon Hughes.
          We do not hate the Tories
          We just know that they are wrong

      • Andy

        Utter and complete twaddle. Have you actually read Clegg’s ghastly Bill ? No of course not. Have you thought through what Clegg’s ideas would actually mean in practise ? How the LibDems would forever gain control of the upper house. And of course you do not support Boundary Reform. All seats should have an equal number of electors instead of the present situation where some seats (like Isle of Wight) have over 110000 electors and others, such as Rhondda, as few as 52000 electors. But of course the former is held by a Conservative and the latter by Labour. So when the Isle of Wight and Rhondda have the same number of electors we will listen to your protests of ‘democratic voting’. Labour gerrymandered the Boundary Review in 2005 for its own advatage.

      • Boudicca_Icenii

        “Nick Clegg votes for hard-pressed UK taxpayers to fund 50 superfluous MPs.” Just about sums up this ridiculous, egotistical non-entity.
        We must make it our goal to ensure that not one of them is a LibDem.

    • postageincluded

      No one in their right minds did.

    • rosie

      But they might pretend to want to go into coalition with them, and offer them PR without a referendum, in exchange for bringing down the conservatives and propelling the socialists into majority government. Without boundary reform, the swings next time would prevent Simon Hughes from becoming DPM, and the Liberals would be finished. But the conservatives could still get back, after yet more disastrous socialist misrule. Clegg and Jeremy Browne clearly understand this. So will other Liberal ministers, whatever they say at their conference, and before it. Remember Clegg has two rather clever tutors; and Browne is a second generation diplomatist of some intelligence.

      • rosie

        Huges is making an ass of himself because it is the only way he sees of becoming Liberal leader. A desperate way, but the only way.

  • Tommy Long

    Well, if Cameron dropped the boundary changes he’d be the one in breach of the coalition agreement, as it says the government will put proposals to the house.

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