Nick Clegg – perpetual Deputy Prime Minister?

February 29, 2012 10:24 am
What is the true motive for Nick Clegg’s House of Lords reforms?
After the AV debacle the idea of another constitutional reform seemed comical, but it reappeared in the days following David Cameron’s apparent veto at the EU summit in December. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this was the payoff that Clegg wrenched from Cameron, in those tense days when the coalition wobbled. The thing that is interesting is that we’ve been here before.
In the formation of the coalition agreement, following the 2010 election, Clegg swept aside his party’s polices on tuition fees and the NHS, for the sake of an AV referendum. Apparently his passion for a fairer voting system outweighed his desire to protect health or stick up for students. His true motive was that AV would be beneficial to his party’s electoral prospects. He sacrificed principle for power, or at least the chance of it.
So is the advocacy of Lords reform the same old spots on the same old leopard? Did he remain quiet on Europe for a chance to change the second chamber?
His proposal is that they be elected by Proportional Representation. As we know, PR would be very beneficial to the Liberal Democrats. Although Clegg speaks of his desire for more democracy, he expects to considerably increase the number of Lib Dem peers by this reform. However, since this is only the second chamber, why would this make a big difference to the power of the Nick Clegg?
The answer is that with an increased vote in the House of Lords, his party would have the ability to join forces with the opposition and act as a block to legislation. The elected government would then be forced to offer government jobs to Clegg and his colleagues in return for their cooperation in the second chamber.
The closer we look at these proposals, the more they look like another attempt, by this political party, to gear our democracy towards permanent coalition government. The likelihood of Nick Clegg as a perpetual Deputy Prime Minister beckons. This is his chance to redeem himself, following his failure to deliver AV. His determination is un-faltered.
He claims to be motivated by democracy, but this profound constitutional change will have no referendum, because he knows full well that if the details were scrutinised by the public they would reject his power grabbing scheme, again.
But should we be fearful of this? Perhaps perpetual coalition government is to be desired? Maybe the Lib Dems have done a good job at dulling the extreme aspects of Tory rule? Personally I think they’ve achieved precious little. The NHS reforms should never have been countenanced when the Prime Minister himself didn’t even understand them, and wouldn’t have been able to explain them to Clegg at the time the policy was agreed. The Tuition Fees increase may have been inevitable, but not to £9k. That was an insult to their promise. The only concessions that the Lib Dems truly desire is voting reform that works in their favour. They won’t change. And for this reason, they are a distraction to the workings of any proper government.
I’m not saying that there are no attractions to the idea of an elected House of Lords. There are lots of other arguments that need to be thought through. All I’m saying is that in the wider consideration of these things, it is wise to question the true motives of the chief advocate.
  • externalities

    Hysterical nonsense.

    1) An 80% elected house seems most likely at the moment, and if you do the sums you’ll find that the independent experts could almost always give Lab or Con a majority (i.e. if the legislation is good) while the Lib Dems couldn’t do the same *even with their pre-2011 vote share*.

    2) The Lib Dems benefit from FPTP by squeezing the Labour and Green vote in LDvsCon seats, and from incumbency in particular constituencies. They may struggle to win the same vote share in a free vote in large, multi-member constituencies.

    3) Why not let the people decide what the composition of the Lords should be? As for whether the public support this “power grabbing scheme”, polls say they do, with just 10% in support of wholly appointed second chamber (and that’s aside from all three parties’ manifestoes).

    4) You may have noticed that no party has a majority in the Lords at the moment, and that the Government are making it proportional by creating hundreds of new Tory+LD peers (for services rendered, of course). Is that what you want?

  • Lee Griffin

    “PR would be very beneficial to the Liberal Democrats.”

    Beneficial to actually reflecting public opinion on their politics, you mean?

    “The Tuition Fees increase may have been inevitable, but not to £9k”

    Labour said they would follow the same review the Tories and Lib Dems did, they too would have gone to £9k. They have only since claimed they would only go to £6k, a move that would see richer graduates getting away with subsidising poorer students less.

    “All I’m saying is that in the wider consideration of these things, it is wise to question the true motives of the chief advocate.”

    Lords reform, to make them more democratic, has been on the agenda for over 100 years. I’m not sure Clegg can be accused of orchestrating a massive political coup from about 50 years before he was born.

    • Slakah

      Beneficial to actually reflecting public opinion on their politics, you mean?
      PR has it’s pitfalls, and to assume not is frankly silly. I am aware that PR isn’t AV, but the AV loss was so sound as to I believe infer that the public, do not want electoral reform pushed down their throats. A more immediate threat to democracy is the concentration of our media services to a couple powerful men. Andy Coulson, and Tony Blairs wedding trip are tantamount to that.

  • treborc

    Oh course to become a leader/ deputy you have to be an MP and I think Clegg will have to start looking for a new seat..

  • Stephen Collins

    When Lords reform backfires horribly, I do hope we’ll see that faffing about with the constitution isn’t such a good idea.

  • John Ruddy

    Dan, we should back Proportional Representation because it is RIGHT and it is FAIR.
    It should not be about the politics, or the personalities. Remember, First past the post could also deliver permanant Tory Government too – indeed the 20th Century is a prime example of that.

  • Paul Barker

    Lords Reform has been a central plank of  Lib/Libdem policy for more than a Century. We never stopped calling for it & it was in The Coalition agreement. I dont doubt your confusion is genuine, Labour never really “Got” Democracy.

    • Slakah

      Yep because what we definitely need is to invigorate the already disenfranchised electorate by sending  them to the polls some many times that they kill any political interest they may have once held. If you want to improve democracy and representation in the UK, then the money would be better spent trying to increase democracy, instead of this Lib Dems attempt turn government into their Student Union.

    • John Ruddy

      Its also been Labour policy too.


    Nope- just as the Lib Dems were ‘demanding’ Browns resignation in their faux discussions with Labour in 2010 Cleggs head will be required to be served up on a platter circa 2015


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