UK coalition in crisis over parliamentary reform
By Tim Castle and Mohammed Abbas
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's coalition government suffered its worst crisis to date on Monday when the junior partner in the two-party administration rebelled after its ally in power, the Conservatives, killed its plans to reform the House of Lords.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, said the coalition formed in 2010 had now entered new territory, though he said he would not bring down the government by withdrawing his party's overall support.
Stung by the humiliation of announcing the demise of a reform his party has championed for over a century, Clegg said his party would retaliate - by opposing boundary changes to Britain's constituencies that would have benefited the Conservatives in an election in 2015.
The rebellion is a potentially serious blow to Prime Minister David Cameron who is trying to hold the coalition together at a time when public anger at the sickly state of the economy is high and the opposition Labour party is ahead in the polls.
"The Conservative party is not honoring the commitment to Lords reform and, as a result, part of our contract has now been broken," Clegg told reporters at a hastily convened news conference. "We are in slightly new territory."
Steven Fielding, a politics professor at Nottingham University, said Clegg's rebellious riposte was probably the only way he could have responded.
"It probably guarantees the coalition will continue, but probably not as the vital force we saw in 2010," he said.
The development means that the House of Lords - the unelected upper chamber of the British parliament - is unlikely to be reformed anytime soon despite widespread criticism that most of its members are political appointees and that the so-called hereditary peers owe their seats to an accident of birth. Continued...