If the coalition leaders had hoped that announcing the demise of Lords reform during the Olympics would mean the government would enjoy a slightly easier ride, a poll released this morning by The Guardian suggests they were wrong.
The ICM poll found that only 16 per cent of voters now believe the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will stay in partnership until 2015. This has fallen from 33 per cent two weeks ago. Overall, 54 per cent of voters believe the government will collapse before the next general election, and only 19 per cent think the two parties will pull apart a few months before the election in order to campaign separately.
Last Monday’s announcement by Nick Clegg that the Conservatives had failed to persuade their MPs to support the House of Lords Reform Bill and that the Liberal Democrats would take revenge by destroying the boundary changes has catalysed a dramatic increase in the proportion of voters who no longer have faith in the longevity of the partnership. This poll found 43 per cent of voters thought the coalition would collapse over the next couple of years, up from 23 per cent a fortnight ago, while 11 per cent (up from 7 per cent) thought it would break up even sooner.
Clegg has insisted that instructing his own ministers to vote against the boundary reforms will not end the coalition, because they will not be sacked for enacting what he sees as a penalty for the failure of his House of Lords project. This has angered Conservative MPs, and at least one senior Lib Dem MP is uneasy about it, too. The new ‘uncharted territory’ that the coalition is in will give voters more jitters: expect even more public bickering and demands from backbenchers in both parties for their leaders to stand up to one another on other issues than constitutional reform.