Today, it is the welfare bill that is in question, with Labour, the Lib Dems and crossbenchers lining up to vote for a range of amendments that would change plans to impose a £26,000 cap on overall benefit payments for any one family.
As I mention in my piece, part of the reason the government has already suffered four defeats on this bill is that the opposition whipping operation, led by Lord Bassam, has been particularly effective. Labour has drummed up a core of Lib Dems and crossbenchers willing to oppose the coalition on a whole raft of measures, and is inflicting some real damage.
Now minsters will either have to make significant changes to the bill in the Commons or hope they can simply face down peers if it is going to pass in time for the Queen’s speech, which will probably be in May.
But this robust opposition in the Lords, especially to the welfare bill, is making the party leadership nervous. Labour knows how popular much of what the government is doing is, even among Labour voters – and that is particularly true of the benefit cap.
Although peers are sticking to the official line – that there should be a benefit cap but not in its current form – shadow ministers are worried that by picking a very visible fight over such a popular measure they are alienating voters.
That’s why when Labour MPs go on TV or radio, their position is very carefully couched. Here is Stephen Timms, the shadow employment minister, on the Today programme this morning:
We support the idea of a benefit cap but we are worried that the government wants to do it in a very damaging way that is likely to end up costing more than it saves.
One Labour insider moaned to me recently that the Lords had effectively gone rogue: he said they had scented blood and were now more interested in defeating the government than promoting a consistent Labour line.