Parliament is having a long and needless break until September. Clearly the government is not desperate to crack on with Lords reform, which might take a lot of debating time, as they are not shortening the summer holiday.
I expect the Lords Reform Bill worked out by Mr Clegg to be quietly dropped this autumn. I would imagine government business managers have realised that they cannot rely on Mr Miliband to vote it through promptly and unamended. Though Labour may well wish to see a Bill carry in due course, they would also wish to see as much divisive debate and damage to the Coalition is possible before it passed. They would also doubtless vote with Conservative opponents in favour of a referendum on the issue.
Business managers would also shrewdly work out that the Bill could be voted down in the Lords. Even some of the Lib Dem peers are against, let alone the Conservatives. That would mean waiting a year and then trying to force it through the Commons under the Parliament Act, with the Lords complaining long and loudly that the use of the Parliament Act to abolish the Lords was an extreme measure. I cannot see them having the stomach for such a protracted and hazardous fight.
Mr Clegg could then respond in the wider interests of the Coalition he helped form. He could see the Lords Reform delay for this Parliament as a parallel act by Conservatives to the Lib Dem slowdown and enforced changes to Mr Lansley’s Health Reforms and their refusal to vote in support of Mr Hunt, and accept that these things happen in coalitions. Or he could seize what he thinks is his party’s interest, and demand that the boundary changes to reduce the number of MPs and make seats of a more consistent size be dropped. If Mr Clegg and the other payroll vote Lib Dems will not vote for the boundary changes then they too are dead, as Labour is strongly against them for party reasons as well.
This will leave the legislative programme light . That is not necessarily a bad thing. The UK is not short of laws. It would allow a repeal Bill to be put in, if the government wishes to increase our liberties and cut out some of the vexatious laws and regulations that bind us. Now there’s an idea that should appeal to Ministers from both Coalition parties, but I don’t see them limbering up for it.