David Cameron keeps Lib Dems on side but pacifies Tories
Former Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell has warned David Cameron his party would not support Tory plans to redraw the parliamentary boundaries – thought to be worth up to 20 seats to the Conservatives at the next election – if Lords reform was abandoned.
The intervention came after the Prime Minister issued an appeal to warring Tories and Liberal Democrats to unite behind the coalition, not descend into “division and navel-gazing”.
Mr Campbell said: “If you are a Liberal Democrat MP whose seat has been pretty substantially carved up as a result of the proposals for a review of the boundaries, then the idea that you would simply march into the lobby in support of the Conservative Government’s particular anxiety to obtain this piece of legislation is one that may be very hard to swallow.”
Following last week’s Conservative revolt over Nick Clegg’s plans for House of Lords reform, the Prime Minister frankly acknowledged there were “profound areas of disagreement” between the two parties.
But in a letter, Mr Cameron said it was essential that these differences did not stop them working together in government in the national interest.
“These differences matter and at the next election they will help define us. But we’re not in an election, now. We’re not even close,” he said.
“People see riots and financial instability across Europe on the television news. They will tolerate tough choices if they see that you stand up for the right things together.
“But they will not tolerate division and navel-gazing. They know that the problems are big and they do not want to see politicians fall out in the process of dealing with them.
“That is why we must rise to the challenge, recognise the extraordinary and challenging nature of the times we live in – and serve the national interest by delivering a strong, decisive and united government.”
Mr Cameron did offer an olive branch to Conservatives who feel that he has given too much ground to the Lib Dems – spelling out some of the areas where they will campaign on different policies at the next election.
“On Europe, for instance, we British need a fresh settlement – and a fresh mandate. Work on that can begin now but it is an issue to deal with in the next parliament, under a majority Conservative government,” he said.
“I take a profoundly different view from most Liberal Democrats on the European Convention on Human Rights, too. I want to do whatever it takes to keep our country safe, restoring the ability to deport dangerous criminals and terrorists even if it means radical action in this area.
Energy Secretary Ed Davey said the Tories and Liberal Democrats were parties with different values and histories.
But he defended the coalition in the wake of this week’s Conservative rebellion on Lords reform – and said the plans were not dead.
He said: “People are forgetting we had a historic vote in the Commons when a huge majority voted in favour of the principle of a democratically elected House of Lords.
“That has not happened before.
“I also believe it is part of the coalition agreement and the Conservative Party will want to honour their agreement and I’m delighted the Prime Minister said he’s going to have another go.”
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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