When I sign up to a deal, I like it to be 100% - even if I might not have been that keen on it in the first place. In May 2010, I signed up to a coalition with my long standing political opponents, the Liberal Democrats. Since then my commitment to the coalition has grown. I began with great admiration for a party that accepted that their manifesto for the 2010 General election was not deliverable in Gov't, and decided to put the interests of our country first by going into coalition with the Conservatives in order to repair the damage that Labour had inflicted on the British economy. They took a big hit. Its been an incredibly difficult journey for the Lib Dems, made much more so by two massive disappointments - the AV referendum and Lords reform. On both issues I disagreed with Nick Clegg, but I can see what huge blows they were to his party members.
Today, Nick Clegg announced that Lords reform is dead in this Parliament. He also said that he would instruct his MPs to vote against the new constituency boundaries. This was a big deal, and has led to much condemnation from some of my colleagues. I don't think they are being realistic. While I don't accept Nick Clegg's assertion that the issues of Lords reform and constituency boundaries are linked, I can see that he has to respond to the discontent in his party. If he were just to take the Lords reform defeat on the chin, without response, he would have great problems at the Lib Dem conference. I am not prepared to join in the ritual 'kicking' of the Deputy Prime Minister - always the pragmatist.
Difficult to predict what will happen to the constituency boundaries bill now. Many assume its dead - but it seems there will still be an attempt to drive it through. It certainly leaves many Tory MPs in a very uncertain position. Where two existing MPs findn themselves forced to compete for a seat, they will have to begin 'campaigning' very soon. Other MPs (including me) do not know whether they have a seat to defend or not. Its also uncertain where the votes would come from to drive the boundary changes through - unless Nick Clegg changes his mind (which seems unlikely). Perhaps the cloud will clear over the next few days.
Whatever, I will be returning to Westminster on Sept 3rd, totally committed to working with my Lib Dem coalition colleagues, trying desperately to put today's statement by Nick Clegg and its consequences behind us. Seems to me that its the grown-up way to behave.