Lords reform: Now it's handbags

Jesse Norman Hereford and Herefordshire South MP Jesse Norman, angered the PM

Thanks to the High Court and the cameras we now know how footballers talk to each other on the pitch - it consists largely of four letter words which occasionally have "-ing" or "-head" attached to them. Now, thanks to MPs' gossip, we have a glimpse of how the prime minister speaks to his party rebels.

Last night David Cameron was very angry indeed with Jesse Norman - once seen as a Tory rising star and now as one of the ringleaders of the Lords reform rebels.

When the two met the conversation was, I'm told, heated, involved some prime ministerial finger pointing but not, apparently, shouting. The cause of the prime minister's fury was an email Norman had sent to fellow Tory MPs which began:

"Dear friends,

We have the chance at 10pm tonight to help the PM by voting against this Bill."

Having claimed to be helping the PM the letter went on to urge Tory MPs to defy him.

"One single decisive action now will kill this Bill outright. It will be a vital blow for the authority and strength of the back benches. Then we will have the recess, and a chance to reset the compass and allow our government to govern this country again.

Please join me, and dozens of your colleagues, by voting AGAINST this Bill tonight.

All best,


The reason this case of parliamentary "handbags" matters is that Norman was just the sort of MP David Cameron would have expected to promote at his next reshuffle.

Now the PM finds himself caught between rebel Tory MPs - around 100 of them - and the Lib Dems who are making increasingly overt threats of "consequences" (see my last post) if he fails to confront them.

This morning Simon Hughes made explicit the thus far implied threat that if his party don't get Lords reform they will vote against the boundary changes which offer the Tories the prospect of a dozen or more MPs at the next election.

Mr Cameron will be pointing out to Nick Clegg that the coalition agreement does not, in fact, link Lords reform and boundaries. He will, no doubt, do so in a calm and cool manner.

...all we need now is for the cameras and microphones which have shed a light on behaviour on the football pitch to be moved into the Commons tea rooms and the prime minister's study.

Update 10am: In case I wasn't clear enough... David Cameron's anger with Jesse Norrman was because he was claiming to help the prime minister when, in fact, he was doing him real damage. An ally of the PM's tells me there was absolutely no chance of him being promoted in the reshuffle before and now...

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

What a difference a day makes

In just 24 hours, Sir Malcolm Rifkind went from angry defiance to a grim-faced acceptance that he would have to quit his job as an MP and chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    Far from what Cameron preached at the election, wheres the democracy here it's dictatorship!

    Thanks to the 'bartering policies' we've to endure due to poor leadership, if he hasn't the guts put Clegg in his place he ought go!

    Clegg's only 7% of the polls, you'd think he'd won the election and only in power by the grace of God and a PM that can't lead.

    They're in it for themselves plain as day!

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    Heres an opinion that is only supported by myself. Why not increase the size of the HoL? Bring in more specialists in the sciences, medicine, etc who can scrutinise legislation? But cut their expenses and salaries to a minimum to avoid the professial politicians. Fill it full of people with a sense of civic duty; outside the major parties are many who would do a fine job serving their country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    @137 Uncomfortably Numb

    I too feel your disdain and exacerbation with our political system, and I'm not so opposed to the idea as to not even consider it. However, as you say, we are discussing a group with vested interests.

    Transparency in ever greater measures is one of the few weapons the public has against this closed shop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    Whistler 123
    Point taken - to a degree. However I still think it's difficult to justify 600 odd MPs and even under the proposed reforms nearly 500 'lords'. Perhaps we should consider privatisation. Usually lowers both personnel and wages a treat. Bet G4S could train up some cut price MPs and Lords for us. Shouldn't notice the difference really.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    Jim Callaghan was of course, famously ex HMIT.
    ~ ~ ~
    Gone but not entirely forgotten. But not an independent tax consultant of your ilk! ;-)

    Perhaps John Whiting will get an 'old-fashioned' Peerage!


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