Those progressively minded Liberal Democrats, who always regarded the Coalition with the Conservatives as something of a Faustian bargain, must feel their worst nightmares are coming true.
First, they looked on in horror as Nick Clegg, who had pledged to abolish tuition fees in England, ended up trebling them. Then came savage cuts in the welfare budget and an unheralded top-down reorganisation of the English NHS, regarded by many as privatisation by the back door. Along the way the referendum on voting reform was heavily defeated after their Coalition partners campaigned vigorously against it. Then commitments to tackle climate change were watered down. Yesterday it emerged that reform of the House of Lords, a cause on which Mr Clegg has hung his hat, is being abandoned.
Having promised to spend the summer winning round Tory backbenchers to the idea of a largely elected upper chamber, the Prime Minister has made it clear he regards it as a lost cause. Instead, Lords reform is to moulder on a shelf along with every other attempt to democratise the Upper House in the past 101 years.
On the day the Coalition was formed, The Herald warned that the LibDems had most to lose and expressed serious doubts as to whether this unholy alliance would survive until 2015.
Yesterday a crestfallen Mr Clegg confirmed that in retaliation for losing Lords reform, the LibDems would vote against Commons constituency reform. The Deputy Prime Minister desperately tried to square the circle by arguing that Lords reform was also about reducing the number of members and the two should go together. This looked tenuous and Mr Clegg appeared to be cutting off his nose to spite his face. (He had previously supported even more radical cuts to the number of constituencies, than the measure he will now vote against.) This tit-for-tat-style politics looks terrible from the party that has always argued that coalitions can produce good government. Only a few weeks ago two junior Tory members of the Government were sacked for voting against Lords reform. Yet now we face the prospect of LibDem Cabinet ministers surviving in office despite voting against their own Government.
All eyes are on London this week and yet in "the Mother of Parliaments" more than half of politicians remain unelected, despite support from around 80% of British citizens for democratic reform.
Can the Coalition survive? It is likely to stagger on, largely because none of the main parties fancies an election in the midst of a recession. The principal justification for the LibDems joining and sticking with the Coalition was to rescue the economy. Through the deepening economic gloom, the Coalition has worn Britain's AAA credit rating like a medal. Yesterday, Danny Alexander appeared to hint even that it is in danger, raising further questions about the Coalition. Will Mr Clegg go down in history as the man who brought his party into government, then consigned it to political oblivion?
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