‘Nothing will change my mind’. Really, Mr Clegg?
“Nothing will change my mind on that.” These were Nick Clegg’s words in the Commons today on his decision to oppose the Boundary Review. There had been a small flurry of speculation that the Lib Dems might pull back from opposition to the review if the Tories dangled something juicy in front of them, like state funding of political parties. The Lib Dem leader had said it before, but this was the most emphatic statement of his position yet and he did it in front of Tory MPs, for the avoidance of doubt.
The DPM said he’d offered the PM a referendum on Lords reform on general election day in return for Lib Dem support for boundary changes going into the next general election but one. He can’t have been hugely surprised when David Cameron was underwhelmed by that offer.
It was a very feisty and jokey performance by Nick Clegg, watched by 10 Lib Dem ministerial colleagues including a perpetually smiling Vince Cable. Nick Clegg told Dennis Skinner he’d never take a seat in the Lords. He told Harriet Harman that Labour’s position on Lords reform was spectacularly insincere.
He was very rude about David Steel’s reform proposals for the Lords, which he all but called puny. Though he did say that the provisions for retiring peers appealed at the moment – a reference to Lords Oakeshott and Smith, who’ve been calling for him to go.
Choosing who will go from amongst his own team in a reshuffle will be a particularly difficult task for Nick Clegg. I see Paul Burstow and Sarah Teather, both talked about as possible sackings, sitting on the bench along from him. The Lib Dems are a smallish clan in parliament. Unlike the Tory leader, the Lib Dem leader sees most of his MPs every sitting week. But there will be some movement.
I hear cabinet ministers have just been been told tomorrow morning’s cabinet is delayed and to await further instruction. So the reshuffle is beginning, with announcements expected tomorrow…though I expect some stuff (departures) will leak out overnight.
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