A meeting of the 1922 committee took place on Thursday, to discuss Lords reform and has been extensively reported on (first on ConservativeHome), accurately.
It would be impossible for journalists to exaggerate the resolve of the almost 100 Conservative MPs who filled the room and made it very clear to the leader of the House, Sir George Young, that MPs from across all sections of the party will not be voting for an elected House of Lords.
One MP commented that, should the party leadership try to push this through, the consequences would be worse than Maastricht. Dramatic? Not at all given that the future of the Conservative Party is at stake.
Reform would guarantee the Liberal Democrats the opportunity to continually hold the balance of power in the Lords. Elected by PR, with a larger public mandate than MPs, MPs would become subservient public servants to the new Senators. Future Prime Ministers could well come from the Lords via the Liberal Democrats, despite being the first choice of a very small minority.
Legislation could be held in a permanent log jam and it would be impossible to argue for and defend first-past-the-post when PR has become established for elections in ‘the other place’ just across the lobby.
Already, blatant spin verging on outright lies have poured from No10 by announcing that Lords Reform was in our manifesto and the Coalition agreement. It absolutely was not, as Paul Goodman makes clear, HERE.
Liberal Democrat Lord Oakeshott, having heard about the ’22 meeting, took to the airwaves yesterday stamping his chuildish feet and announcing that Conservative MPs should “grow up”. Yes, Lord Oakeshott of all people really told us to be mature. He then embarked upon the same co-ordinated spin as No 10.
It is a sad day when both the office of No10 and Lord Oakeshott resort to lies in order to attempt to hoodwink the media and the public at large in order to satisfy their own short term personal objectives.
Cross party delegations of some of the most senior and influential peers have spoken to Cameron and Osborne, in an attempt to de-rail this madness, to no effect.
Party donors will be next and it is guaranteed their own particular threat will be to no longer donate to the party.
MPs are threatening to rebel on the biggest scale yet and the Labour party, who see their poll rating increase just as ours continues to decline, are rubbing their hands in glee as they spot a crack in the wall over an issue they – the party with an ingrained opposition to the Lords – never dared to put centre stage.
The most interesting aspect of all of this is that what happened in the 1922 was a surreal situation, given that many of the 2010 intake are uber loyal and would rather have their finger nails removed, without anaesthetic, than do anything to displease the party leadership. So, what is going on?
It would appear that the desire to prevent No10 from embarking on another insane path runs deeper than amongst the MPs, peers and donors. Uber loyal MPs don’t threaten to vote against their party lightly. I doubt if even during Maastricht, six PPS’s threatened to resign their positions in one meeting over one issue.
Downing Street has got itself into one unholy fix by agreeing to Lords Reform for an elected House in order to appease the Liberal Democrats and to maintain the Coalition.
It was fascinating to have heard Tim Farron, president of the LibDems, on Question Time this week, admit that the Liberal Democrats went into coalition to prevent the Conservative party going back to the electorate in October 2010 and returning with a massive majority. It seems they are dead set on making sure this never happens again.
To the Liberal Democrats, Lords Reform is everything. Without it the Liberal Democrats of today will go down in history as the party which, for the sake of a few years of coalition, took their party back twenty years as they hobble back in 2015 with fifteen seats, if they are very lucky. Without Lords Reform, they they will not vote for the Boundary Commission recommendations and sign away seven of their own seats. It doesn’t matter that they have already voted for the first stage of the Boundary Commission order, without reform it’s a matter of electoral life or death. A week of bad press for having voted for it once, but not in the final stage, is as nothing to the raw survival of their party.
So, why are uber loyal Conservative MPs behaving like this and threatening to rebel?
Will their blood stay up, or will they be subjected to the dark arts of the whips office? Pressure being applied on associations coupled with the ominous possibility of de-selection. Threats of never being promoted, offices removed and other devious in the bottom drawer measures.
Or is this something the whips are tacitly encouraging, giving MPs the confidence and security they need to do something which goes against their own personal, deep grain.
Is the repulsion to what Cameron, Osborne and Clegg are proposing, to make Lords reform the central feature of the Queen’s Speech, so deeply felt that the whips find it impossible to support No10? It wouldn’t be the first time as those who were in the Commons during the leadership of Iain Duncan- Smith will confirm.
Would a decent whips office, when faced with the choice of saving the leadership or the party choose the party first?
Cameron and Osborne have two very simple choices going forward. I say both because it is impossible to imagine Cameron taking any major policy decision without Osborne. If they make the wrong one, it could very well be the beginning of Cameron’s own personal downfall. He needs to listen to the message he was given at the 1922 loud and clear and support the Conservative Party and his own MPs. If he chooses not to, if he decides to support the Liberal Democrats in their own desperate pursuit of power and prominence. If he places his own desire to remain in No10 for a few more years over the long term future of the party, it is almost certain Cameron will not lead the Conservative Party into the next election.
Osborne is already toast. Conversation in the tea rooms has already moved onto who will be next? The answer is no longer, ever, Osborne.