In front of the Institute for Public Policy Research think tank, the leader of the Liberal Democrats will say that the plans to replace the Lords with a democratically elected second chamber are incomplete without reform to the House of Commons. “Lords reform without Commons reform is like changing the tyres when the car’s on fire,” Davey is expected to say. “Only a vote for the Liberal Democrats will be a vote for proportional representation.”
The Liberal Democrats have reserved their attacks for the Conservative government in recent months, a tactic that was motivated by their successful campaigns against Tory candidates in three by-elections since the last election. But today’s attack indicates that the Lib Dems are keen to strike some dividing lines with Labour and reclaim the mantle as the party of constitutional reform. The Lib Dems also hope that the intervention worsens divisions within Labour over whether electoral reform should be in the next manifesto. “Labour are now promising House of Lords reform, in an attempt to placate their members who know that a fairer voting system is the only way to mend our broken politics,” Davey will say.
That’s a reference to Labour’s party conference in September, when delegates passed a motion that called on the party to include proportional representation in the next manifesto. The motion received strong support from the unions. But the response from the party leadership was unequivocal: electoral reform will not be in the manifesto – a decision that helps the Lib Dems’ long-held commitment to the policy stand out.