David Cameron’s plan to redraw Britain’s electoral map is under threat amid fears that many Lib Dem and Tory MPs could rebel against the proposals. Tensions are rising ahead of September 12, when the Boundary Commission will reveal its first draft of the English electoral landscape (Wales, NI and Scotland follow soon after). The mood is one of trepidation and resentment.
This issue is likely to turn nasty not only because many Lib Dems are not in the mood to keep their promise over boundaries – because they feel that Cameron helped to squash their cherished AV referendum, which was the other half of the deal. There are also many Tory MPs who would rather ignore the whips and vote against their own side in order to keep their own seats. (The issue will go to a vote in late 2013). Right now we just don’t know who they are, because no one has seen the revised boundaries.
But if you are a Tory MP in a Labour two-way seat with a 10,000 majority – cut to 3 or 4,000 by the commission – would you really accept your fate? And meanwhile Labour is still vehemently opposed to the whole thing.
Some MPs tell me this is likely to pass through the Commons but be scuppered in the Lords. Here is a feature I did on the issue yesterday. Jacob Rees-Mogg said it would be the test of whether Lib Dems are “honorable” people. Mark Pritchard argued that if the Lib Dems rebelled it would be the “ultimate betrayal”. That noise you can hear is one of knives being sharpened.
(Another Tory MP, Mark Field, pointed out that people always imagine the strongest coalition splits are over policy – instead they are over this kind of tribal political issue. “The biggest issue is the Lib Dems. They take an increasingly strong view that they saw the other half of the bargain, AV, destroyed by Cameron. I disagree with them myself, but they feel aggrieved,” he said.)
In a foretaste of the plotting to come, meanwhile, James Kirkup reveals that some are even mulling using the boundary changes to oust the Speaker, John Bercow.