UK Politics

Eric Pickles: Post-boundary vote coalition relations 'like Boxing Day'

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Media captionLabour and Lib Dem MPs teamed up to defeat the proposals

Eric Pickles has described the aftermath of Tuesday's coalition split on plans to redraw constituency boundaries as "like Boxing Day".

Mr Pickles said: "You have been as nice as you can to your relatives, but by the time Boxing Day comes around you realise why you do not live together."

MPs voted by 334 to 292 to delay the constituency shake-up until 2018.

The two coalition parties had been in dispute since proposed elections to the House of Lords were dropped last year.

It was the first time Lib Dem ministers had voted against their Conservative coalition colleagues in the Commons.

Labour and Lib Dem MPs were joined by those of smaller parties - including the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the DUP, the SDLP the Greens and Respect - to defeat the proposals, giving them majority of 42.

Four Conservatives - David Davis, Philip Davies, Richard Shepherd and John Baron - also rebelled against their party.

Northern Ireland MP Naomi Long of the Alliance voted with the Conservatives, as did Nadine Dorries who had the Tory whip withdrawn after appearing on I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here! last year.

Coalition row

A senior Lib Dem source insisted to the Press Association that the vote would not damage the coalition.

"Both sides of the coalition have known what the position is for months now. There are 101 other things the Government is doing and we will get on with those," the source said.

"This vote now draws a line under this issue."

Leader of the House Andrew Lansley told BBC News that the coalition parties had "departed from each other on this specific vote" but would continue to work together until the next election.

"You come together in a coalition agreement, and if you live by that agreement together, then actually you can live with some of the disagreements that occur from time to time," he said.

The issue of boundary changes has been one of the biggest flashpoints between Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg since the two entered government together.

Parliament agreed in principle in 2011 to reduce the number of MPs and to redraw the electoral map to make all constituencies roughly the same size in terms of number of voters.

Some believe the proposals, which were backed at the time by both coalition parties, would help the Conservatives win up to 20 extra seats at a future election.

But a row over plans to reform the Lords - abandoned in the face of Conservative opposition - have since led the Lib Dems to say they will block implementation of the boundary review until after the next election, scheduled for 2015.

The Lib Dems argued that the proposals on the make-up of the Commons and the Lords were part of the same package of constitutional reforms put forward by the coalition in 2010 and accused Conservative backbenchers of not honouring the initial agreement.

But Conservatives insisted that progress on the two issues was not linked and believed that Lib Dem government ministers should have voted in favour of the boundary proposals or resign.

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