Surrender...for the time being

The government has hoisted the white flag - but might haul it down again in the autumn.

The Leader of the Commons, Sir George Young, has just confirmed that they will not attempt to timetable the House of Lords Bill tonight, but added that they may attempt to bring one in later.

Tory rebel Jesse Norman said it was a victory for Conservative MPs, Lib Dem grandee Sir Ming Campbell rather plaintively asked if there was any reason for optimism (derisive laughter)….that Labour might now say what timetable they might support.

This is a horrible moment for Nick Clegg - not least since the period of "reflection" over the summer may well consist of Conservative colleagues doing their best to persuade him to drop the whole thing.

Meanwhile, the bill will go into committee stage with no end point in sight. With 70 plus Tory backbenchers determined to block it, and emboldened by this victory, its prospects look bleak.

And the one concession that might buy some support, allowing a referendum, would raise the prospect of another stinging defeat for Mr Clegg - after the AV referendum, it's hard to be confident that a reform with notional public support would be endorsed by the voters. He may feel that it might be smarter to pull the bill to avoid a defeat which could take Lords reform off the agenda for a generation.

And in the long term, the souring of coalition relationships could mean things get very nasty; as I noted below, the Lib Dems will want vengeance…even if it takes a while to wreak it.

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