Tim Montgomerie, writing at Conservative Home, believes that the decision by the Liberal Democrats to renege on their support for electoral constituency boundary reform in retaliation for Prime Minister David Cameron’s inability to win Conservative backbench support for House of Lords reform represents the Conservative’s “worst single electoral setback since Black Wednesday”, when Britain was forced to quit the ERM, torpedoeing the Torie’s reputation for economic competence:
When the Parliamentary and Voting Constituencies Bill was passed I celebrated the moment, noting that the introduction of fair-sized seats of equal population could boost the number of Tory MPs at the next election by up to twenty. That was certainly Conservative HQ’s view. This morning the hope of boundaries fairness** is close to death, if not dead. After having explicitly said there that there was no connection between Lords reform and equal-sized seats Nick Clegg has u-turned and claimed there needs to be a connection.
** Boundaries “unfairness” is one of the explanations for why Labour get a majority with a 3% lead in the popular vote while Conservatives need an 11% lead for the same result. Or to put it another way John Major got a majority of 21 in 1992 with an 8% lead and a 42% share of the vote while, in 2005, Tony Blair got a 66 majority with just 36% of the vote and a 3% lead.
There has been much outrage from Conservative MPs and political commentators about the decision, but most of it seems to be directed toward the Liberal Democrats – “how dare they do this to us?!” – than inward at their own political strategy and leadership.
If, indeed, boundary review is so crucial to the Conservative Party’s hopes of winning an outright majority at the next general election (and if this is the case, when Conservatives have managed to win elections under similar circumstances in the past, it is a pretty damning indictment of the current party’s policy positions and campaigning ability), perhaps David Cameron should not have played chicken with Nick Clegg on such an important matter.
Tim Montgomerie pretty much agrees in his article:
The only advantage of the likely defeat of boundary changes is that a central plank of the Cameron/Osborne battleplan has gone. Any residual complacency must have gone. They can’t carry on as they were. They need a game changer and, preferably, soon.
And perhaps, instead of venting their anger at Nick Clegg when said strategy blows up in their faces, Conservatives with an eye on the next election would do well to remember that because they sadly, miraculously failed to win the 2010 election outright, as a consequence they govern in partnership with the Liberal Democrats, and that if they screw over their coalition partners on a policy point close to their heart, they are quite likely to get screwed in return.
I don’t care what Nick Clegg said about whether Lords Reform and Electoral Boundary Changes were linked or not back in April of this year, as Guido Fawkes appears to do:
The Boundary Review had nothing to do with House of Lords reform. It was linked to the AV referendum which the LibDems secured.
Clegg accusing others of breaking promises beggars belief. The LibDems are desperately trying to spin this, but in reality the backbench Tories are the ones to sacrifice political gain for sticking to their principles – however wrong they are to defend the current upper chamber.
Waah waah waah. The Conservatives are supposed to be the more mature, politically experienced political party and they got played by the LibDems. Now people like me have lost two policy proposals that were dear to our hearts – democratic reform of the House of Lords, and reform of the UK’s constituency sizes and boundaries to make them more equal. I have no sympathy for them.
The Conservatives are the senior party in the coalition government. They should try acting like it.