Nick Clegg: I'm delaying, not blocking boundary changes

"Things could look very different in 2015," said the deputy prime minister. "A new constituency map giving votes more equal weight."

That was Nick Clegg's view in August 2010 as he unveiled "My vision for a new political map and voting system". That map included plans to cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600 across the UK (and from 40 to 30 in Wales).

He told readers of the London Evening Standard: "The problem is two-fold: under the current set-up, the value of your vote is determined by where you live; and the voting system by which we elect MPs ā€” First Past the Post ā€” is viewed by many as deeply defective. If we want our elections to be more legitimate, we must tackle both. If we're serious about mending our broken politics, we have to get the basics right."

In October 2010, Mr Clegg told MPs: "I strongly agree with my hon. Friend. It is one of the founding principles of any democracy that votes should be valued in the same way, wherever they are cast. Over the years, all sorts of anomalies have developed, such that different people's votes are simply not worth the same in elections to this place. That surely cannot be right."

Fast forward to August 2012, and - as House of Lords reform bit the dust - Mr Clegg said he would instruct Liberal Democrat MPs to vote against the boundary changes he previously thought were part of the plan to mend our broken politics.

His announcement - "I have told the prime minister that when, in due course, parliament votes on boundary changes for the 2015 election I will be instructing my party to oppose them" - led to headlines suggesting he would block or veto the changes.

That was four months ago. It now appears Mr Clegg still supports the boundary changes but merely wants to delay them - along the lines of an amendment proposed by some Lib Dem peers.

This morning, he told a committee of MPs: "I'm not suggesting you repeal the legislation, I'm just suggesting you delay it by a full parliamentary cycle."

Mr Clegg said that the coalition agreement didn't attach a timetable so his instruction to MPs was not in contradiction to the spirit and letter of that agreement.

The amendment to postpone a boundaries review until 2018 was "entirely consistent" with what he said in August.

"I'm not proposing to unpick the legislation - merely making a change in timetable."

The boundary changes have looked dead in the water for some time (the Tories are choosing parliamentary candidates on the old boundaries) but Mr Clegg's talk of a delay rather than a block held out the prospect of yet another twist in the tale.