Fraser Nelson

Can the Lords deliver?

Can the Lords deliver?
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For a split second, I felt sorry for Nick Clegg. I mean, aren’t all political leaders entitled to a honeymoon? But no, he deserves this. Every bit. Each one of his 62 MPs was elected on a promise for a referendum, and in planning to abstain on this totemic question they betray all of the 5.99m people who voted for them on election day believing the Lib Dems were somehow more honest than the other two. 

No wonder I Want a Referendum’s poll of LibDem voters shows just 2% agree with Clegg’s position to abstain on the referendum – a smaller number than believe Elvis is still alive. And no wonder Clegg is in the muck. His first action as LibDem leader was to tear up a manifesto pledge.

Let’s not give up hope on the Lords, by the way. Look at the arithmetic. If the 78 LibDem peers abstain, that leaves 215 Labour peers who would only marginally overpower the 202 Tories. So the debate becomes all about what the 200 crossbenchers think – and it will have come to their attention that all three parties were elected on a pledge to have a referendum. And the Parliament Act can only be used to enforce a manifesto pledge – not to override one. So maybe, just maybe, this much-derided chamber will prove itself the pilot light of British democracy.

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

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