David Cameron on collision course with Lib Dems in boundary row
DAVID Cameron insisted yesterday that he would press ahead with plans to reduce the number of seats in the House of Commons, despite the Liberal Democrats saying they will vote against them.
The Prime Minster made his remarks in reponse to an announcement by his deputy, Nick Clegg, that Lib Dem MPs would oppose proposed boundary changes, because the Tories had broken the “contract” between the coalition partners by effectively scuppering House of Lords reform.
Last night, the SNP signalled it would support the Conservatives on boundary changes, meaning Mr Cameron needs just ten more votes to get the proposals through.
Mr Cameron’s goal is to reduce the number of seats in the Commons by 50 to 600 and create constituencies all of about 76,000 voters.
The changes are seen by the Tory leadership as important in helping their electoral chances in 2015, with the current boundaries favouring the Labour Party. They argue that the Lib Dems should back them over this issue because the Conservatives agreed to hold a referendum on electoral reform, a Lib Dem policy, which was defeated in 2011.
The proposals to cut the number of parliamentary seats, while realigning the boundaries to ensure they have roughly equal numbers of voters, is widely seen as the key to the Conservatives’ chances of outright victory at the next election, giving them up to 20 additional seats.
Visiting an activity centre in mid-Wales, Mr Cameron made clear he intended to push forward with the changes when they come back to the Commons in the autumn. “We want the boundary change vote to go ahead,” he told reporters.
His decision will effectively force Lib Dem ministers to vote against their own government – throwing the divisions within the coalition into sharp relief.
While Plaid Cymru and the Democratic Unionists also oppose the changes, it is understood that Mr Cameron is considering offering them a deal.
Plaid objected to Welsh seats being cut by 25 per cent while the DUP were angry to see Northern Irish seats reduced from 18 to 16.
The SNP said yesterday that its six MPs would back the Tories, meaning Mr Cameron would need only ten more votes to give Mr Clegg a humiliating defeat.
SNP chief whip Stewart Hosie said: “After arguing for boundary changes on principle, it is plain shameless of the Lib Dems to ditch these reforms in a attempt to settle scores with the Tories.
“The boundary review had nothing to do with Lords reform, and these shenanigans show why Westminster cannot be trusted on the key constitutional issues.
“Given that these reforms were being driven by Nick Clegg, we now need answers from David Cameron on how and when he intends to put this to a vote.”
Mr Clegg confirmed he was dropping his House of Lords reform bill on Monday, after being informed by Mr Cameron that an “insufficient number” of Conservative MPs were prepared to back the legislation.
Mr Clegg said he was acting “reluctantly”, adding: “The Conservative Party is not honouring the commitment to Lords reform and, as a result, part of our contract has now been broken.”