Clegg comes through for the Conservatives on Constitutional Reform

At a joint Constitution Unit/Institute for Government seminar on 11 July I developed three propositions:

  1. The Conservatives are just as much a party of constitutional reform as the Lib Dems, but this has never been acknowledged, not least by themselves.
  2. Nick Clegg in taking the lead on the whole of the government’s constitutional reform programme has taken responsibility for delivering the Conservatives’ reforms as well as the Lib Dem ones.
  3. At the end of the coalition government, Clegg will have delivered more of the Conservative package of constitutional reforms than his own. In particular, he will have failed on the AV referendum and on Lords reform, the Lib Dems’ two biggest priorities.

For proof that the Conservatives are a party of constitutional reform, see the report which I wrote analysing all the Conservatives’ plans for constitutional change in February 2010. To my surprise it ran to 12 chapters, and can be found here.

For proof that Clegg will have delivered more of the Conservative package than of his own reforms, see the table here. It shows on one page the main constitutional reform items in the coalition’s Programme for Government. It is not comprehensive, but it does capture the more important of the government’s constitutional reforms. And it is inevitably a crude score card, in that it lists all the reforms as if they were equal, when some are clearly more important than others.

Columns 2 and 3 in the table show where a commitment in the Programme for Government came from: in the Conservative manifesto, the Lib Dem manifesto, or both. Further proof of my Proposition 1, that the coalition’s constitutional reform agenda comes just as much from the Conservatives as the Lib Dems, can be found by summing those two columns. Of the 14 items analysed in my table, 10 were in the Conservative manifesto, and 8 in the Lib Dem manifesto

The last two columns record the Conservative and Lib Dem manifesto commitments. Columns 2 and 3 summarise these by two symbols:

● = manifesto commitment fully incorporated into Programme for Government

○ = manifesto commitment only partially incorporated.

Column 4, headed Result, indicates whether the commitment is likely to be delivered or not. This requires some educated guesswork, and not everyone will agree with my forecasts. Those who disagree can insert their own, to see if they come to a different overall conclusion. My own conclusion, summing up my forecasts, is that at the end of this government Nick Clegg will have delivered six of the Conservative commitments for constitutional reform, but only four of his own. As I put it at the end of my chapter for the Institute for Government report on the first year of coalition government, One Year On:

‘He will get little credit from the Conservatives for this, because they do not see themselves as constitutional reformers. So he risks being damned by his own side for his failures, and ignored by the Conservatives for his successes’.

– Professor Robert Hazell

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