House of Lords conflict and consequences

The House of Lords lies empty today but its grand chamber echoes with promises of parliamentary reform which have ended up getting precisely nowhere.

So far, so unsurprising.

What is of more consequence is the impact on a coalition which only a few weeks ago insisted that - despite a massive parliamentary rebellion - reform would proceed.

Nick Clegg made clear today that there will be consequences which could result in Lib Dem ministers voting against one of their own government's Bills - on changing parliamentary boundaries.

Tory backbenchers hostile to the coalition insist that that is a clear breach of the coalition agreement (page 27 links changes to the size of the Commons with a referendum on a new voting system) and point to the deputy prime minister's insistence that "there is no link" when asked some weeks ago about reports that he would scupper boundary changes if Lords reform faltered.

Nick Clegg: "The conservative party is not honouring the commitment to Lords reform"

They will argue that it gives them even greater licence to oppose Lib Dem policies.

There is little sign of bad blood about this issue around the Cabinet table.

Lib Dem ministers accept that the Tory leadership tried to deliver - considering their proposals for compromise: an offer of a referendum on Lords reform to coincide with the general election and the scrapping of separate elections for the Lords (using the results of a general election for a proportional doling out of places in the second chamber).

There is, though, every sign that both sides are struggling to control their own MPs and activists who find coalition less and less to their taste.

Nick Robinson, Political editor Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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