By Tim Montgomerie
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If the Lords gets a democratic mandate it will inevitably challenge the legitimacy and authority of the Commons.
From an electoral point of view the first Coalition government since WWII is not going well for Nick Clegg.
His party has lost two million left-leaning voters to Labour, probably for a generation.
Some polls have the Lib Dems fighting UKIP for third place.
The Deputy PM lost the referendum on AV. He lost in the country and also saw a majority of Labour MPs vote against electoral reform.
The boundary review will mean Lib Dems will lose three to six MPs.
Lib Dems are suffering huge losses in Wales, Scotland and northern cities – reversing twenty years of pain-staking advances.
Nick Clegg's tuition fees U-turn will see a good number of Lib Dems ousted in key university seats.
If ConHQ follows ConHome's advice and target Lib/Con marginals (and it will have to be watched like a hawk to ensure it does) Clegg should lose another six to ten MPs – finally reversing the gains that Paddy Ashdown made in 1997, when Tory fortunes were at rock bottom.
Voters are looking at coalition government and deciding – by two-to-one – that they prefer single party government.
Clegg desperately needs some big political dividend from his time in government and he's decided to throw everything at getting a Lords elected by proportional representation.
Lib Dems are openly threatening to scupper the boundary review if it's not delivered. Lib Dems had promised to enact equalisation of constituency size if Tories gave them a vote on electoral reform. We kept our side of the bargain; some Lib Dems are preparing to welch on their end of it.
If the Lib Dems gets PR for the Lords Clegg will ensure that the Liberal Democrats become the party that holds the balance of power in British politics – not once or twice but routinely. If Clegg doesn't get an elected Lords he may leave the Coalition. That's certainly the view of many senior Tories.
It's very hard to believe that once the House of Lords is connected to the people via a democratic mandate that it won't become a very different chamber. A democratic mandate to a legislature is the equivalent of electricity to an appliance, as our little graphic suggests. Lord (Michael) Dobbs explains all in a powerful article we shall be publishing in full tomorrow:
"I totally accept that the British people have the right to demand their second chamber of Parliament be elected. Except they’re not doing so. And in any event, the Lords isn’t a proper second chamber, it’s more like an advisory body, a council of elders with powers that go no further than asking the Commons to think again. It often acts as a great composting machine – rubbish in, rather more fertile and fragrant stuff out. We peers are the worms of the Westminster Field. Ah, but elect me, and I would become a very different beast. Why should I regard myself as a second-class creature when my electorate would be far greater than that of any MP? Why should I always in the end back down? Vote against my conscience? Let the government of the day have its wicked way? The fact is, I wouldn’t. I would demand more influence, a stronger voice, and that new power could come from only one place – the House of Commons."
The Conservative Party manifesto did not promise a House of Lords elected by PR.
The Coalition Agreement made no commitment other than to bring forward proposals for reform. It was a clear device to kick a tricky issue into the long grass. As long as a giraffe, one Tory peer told BBC Radio.
No Tory MP or peer is under any obligation to vote for an elected Lords. We all remember David Cameron's suggestion that Lords reform would be a third term issue.
Throughout this week we'll be running features on this vital constitutional issue, now immersed in short-term politics. Articles by Penny Mordaunt MP (online this morning), Lord Dobbs, Lord Lamont (the Lords works) and Bruce Anderson (why give Clegg such an electoral gift?) will look at different aspects of the case against going forward with a Lords chosen by PR. And, in the interests of balance, an interview with political reform minister Mark Harper MP and articles from Laura Sandys MP and Quentin Langley will put the case for a democratically-elected upper house. The next piece in the series will be at 11am when we'll publish polling that indicates Tory members do not want an elected Lords.