Ben Rosenbaum argues in Oxford University’s Cherwell that fractures emerging in the coalition will lead to a far larger divide:
On July 10th, the coalition suffered its biggest rebellion so far when 91 Tory MPs voted against Lords reform at its second reading. The government won the vote, but the bill’s future is in doubt after plans were dropped to timetable it before the summer recess. To the majority of the country, July 10th will have been as insignificant as any other day in Westminster, but it could have important long term effects on the health of the coalition and the country.
After the vote, Sir Menzies Campbell strongly implied what many had already predicted; that the Liberal Democrats will refuse to back the boundary reforms, a major Conservative policy, if the Tories don’t support them on Lords reform. The proposed boundary changes are expected to reduce our current electoral system’s bias towards the Labour party, and the Conservatives could gain up to 20 seats. However, Nick Clegg’s party, despite being treated much more unfairly by our system in terms of votes per seat, is actually predicted to lose several MPs. There is a feeling among the Liberal Democrat backbenchers that they have made political sacrifice after political sacrifice for the sake of the coalition, tuition fees being the famous example, yet they have achieved little more than a failed AV referendum. At the same time, Tory backbenchers have hardly had to forgo any of their political principles, and the Conservative party has in fact implemented a large part of their manifesto. It is almost unthinkable that Liberal Democrat MPs will march down the division lobby corridors for Tory boundary changes, some of them literally walking to the end of their careers, without a positive legacy to leave behind.
It now seems unlikely that Cameron, a man with ever diminishing political capital who has no appetite for a long battle with his backbenchers, will be able to whip his party into line on Lords reform. This will be immensely damaging for relations inside the coalition, but for its own sake it must remain united in government. The coalition was formed in the name of economic and political stability, and to split over Lords and boundary reforms, issues that are close to insignificant to the electorate, would be political suicide. With a July 18th MORI poll giving the Labour party a 13 point lead, it seems an early election would hand power to a resurgent Ed Miliband…
Full story here.