So, the Lib Dem toys are out of the pram. Having been shoved aside once again, this time on Lords reform, Clegg is so upset that he’ll ask his MPs to come out against the boundary changes they have already supported. The boundary changes that is, that they all hated to start with.
Onlookers from the real world outside Westminster will doubtless shrug once again at this bizarre approach to policy (un)making, but over and above giving politics a worse name, the real damage of the Lib Dems holding out for Lords reform has already been done.
I passionately believe that we must elect our second chamber, but not to the detriment or sacrifice of the many things that also matter or that matter much more. When the Lib Dems voted twice to dismantle the NHS we know and love – and when Shirley Williams voted against her amendments to Lansley’s Bill – can it really be that the higher purpose of constitutional reform provided a guiding hand through the ‘yes’ lobby? Similarly when Gove demanded draconian powers to force schools into academies, or when IDS decided to treat disabled people as benefit cheats? The list goes on and on and need we even mention going along with Osborne’s economic incompetence?
We may never know the bizarre and naïve reasoning at Lib Dem HQ when deciding to go along with anything – tuition fees, AV humiliation, local election annihilation etc. – in return for Lords reform. We do know however, that this matters, and it matters because the Lib Dems have voted through social and fiscal policy that is devastating and mistaken.
As Chair of my local CLP where we face a sitting Lib Dem MP, these recent cracks in the Coalition and the scrapping of boundary changes mean two things immediately. Firstly, it is not the naivety of holding out for constitutional reform in a Tory-led Government that matters, it is what the Lib Dems were willing to sign up to in return that must be exposed again and again. Secondly, that time is of the essence in getting this message out. We have waited longer than usual to select a parliamentary candidate (as the boundary commission plodded on) so the time is now, right now to get going and put a face and personality to a positive alternative.
Matt Downie is the Chair of Hornsey & Wood Green CLP