It may seem strange that a victory of 462 votes to 124 on the Bill for an elected Lords is coming across as a defeat – but let’s make no mistake. A defeat it is. Because of Labour’s lack of support for a programme motion, which would have set a timetable, the Tory rebellion would have been big enough to defeat the motion - and hence the Conservatives can now simply talk the Bill out.
Labour wanted it both ways – they supported the Bill to reform the Lords and then colluded with the Tory rebels to ensure that it would never happen. In trying to wear two hats, and hence two faces, the new modern Labour party is defending the privilege and patronage of the House of Lords. The Con-Lab coalition, referred to in my last post, is as strong as ever.
As for the Conservatives, clearly David Cameron has lost all discipline and authority in his party. He can no longer bring anything for certainty to the table. There is no point in a second coalition agreement as Cameron cannot guarantee that he can deliver. If he had shown some leadership ages ago, and removed the whip from one or two troublemakers, then the rest would have fallen into line. Instead he is now a lame duck leader. A teacher unable to control the children. In football terms, he has ‘lost the dressing room’.
Our greatest contempt should go to those Tory ‘rebels’. As I put in an earlier post, the Lib Dems have given and sacrificed much to provide a stable government in difficult economic times for the good of the country, and have held their noses as they have voted for Conservative policies. In return, the Tories and media have just thrown abuse and insults at Clegg and the party – like a spoilt child always wanting more.
The Conservative parliamentary party are simply too immature to be seriously trusted with any power and responsibility – and Cameron knows it.
In a way I feel sorry for David Cameron. We will be rid of the Tory backbenchers in 2015. He is lumbered with them for eternity.
So where do we go from here? Firstly, despite my harsh words, it is my view we should not end the coalition. The main reason for the coalition – to provide stability and work towards reducing the deficit – remains. In one aspect, the rebels are correct – the economy is the most important issue and we must continue to work together with the more adult Tories to get that right.
However, we should reject any coalition after 2015. If either of the other two get a majority, then good luck to them. We should back them if we agree and fight where we do not. Otherwise we should be prepared to work with any other party but on a much looser basis. We cannot continue the coalition with the Conservatives, when as demonstrated David Cameron is unable to keep his word, and nor should we enter coalition with Labour, who would clearly prefer to work with the Tories.
In opposition, we should use that time to regroup and rebuild, and continue to scrutinise whoever forms the government. We can then come back revived and refreshed in 2020.
But this is three years away and there is still much to do. For now we should keep going, keep winning the arguments, keep both eyes on the Tories, and keep pushing forward with the main objective to do what we can to make this country a fairer society by 2015.