Stewart Jackson on the Prospects for the Coalition Agreement

13:17 Monday 16th July 2012
World At One
BBC Radio Four

MARTHA KEARNEY: What is the future of the Government? The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said this morning that the Coalition is, and I quote, “doomed to succeed”. Interesting phrase that. Stewart Jackson is the Conservative MP for Peterborough. He was one of those who voted against the Government on Lords Reform. Do you see a way through that thorny issue?
STEWART JACKSON: Well I have to commend the good sense and wise words of Lord Steel, and I didn’t think I’d be using those words. But I think his Bill, his Cessation of Membership Bill I think can enable us to get over this particularly tricky issue, and have the basis of a consensus on our discussions on House of Lords reform. And I do believe it is a lifeline. Because we are at a fork in the road, and I think it’s a welcome development that we now are into a mid-term review. Because at the moment, we were hitherto in the mushy middle. We were neither moving towards supply and confidence, ie. a minority Conservative Government, nor were we so to speak, rebooting the Coalition with a Coalition 2.0 programme. After all, we’ve got some really very decent accomplishments to tell people about, whether it’s local government reform, immigration, welfare reform, changing the adoption rules, as well as obviously very significant public sector reforms.
MARTHA KEARNEY: But there is bad blood at the moment, isn’t there, it’s fair to say, between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives. We hear Liberal Democrats threatening to veto the boundary changes which are being mooted in the House of Commons.
STEWART JACKSON: Well I think that would be unacceptable, and I totally deprecate this idea that somehow the Prime Minister is going to bargain away these boundary changes for fair and equal parliamentary constituencies. Because let’s remember that in 2011, Conservative Members of Parliament voted as a quid pro quo for boundary changes on a £100 million referendum on the AV system, which was comprehensively lost. But that proposal could have cost us power permanently. But we were willing to do it for the good of the Coalition.
MARTHA KEARNEY: So what do you think should happen, if the Liberal Democrats do decide to veto the boundary changes?
STEWART JACKSON: I think David Cameron quite rightly said that he wants to govern to enact what was in the Coalition agreement. That would have been if they do do that. And we’re a year or so away from that, I think, that key decision in 2013. But if they do do that, I think that will be such an egregious breach of faith, that David Cameron will be needing to think about a minority Conservative Government, a Growth Bill, putting forward marriage tax breaks, UK Bill of Rights, things we would want to do on our own. Because I think that breach of faith would end the Coalition Government, and it would be particularly as Conservative Ministers voted for Lords Reform last week, we would at the very least expect Liberal Democrats Ministers to vote for fair and equal constituencies.
MARTHA KEARNEY: And so that would mean moving to the supply and confidence arrangement that you were talking about earlier.
STEWART JACKSON: Absolutely. I think it would be inevitable. I don’t think it will happen, and I think wiser heads are prevailing, and will prevail over the summer. Because I do think we have the makings of a consensus across both Houses around Lord Steel’s Bill. Yes it’s baby steps. Mao Tse Tung said the journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step. And I think this is a single step, because none of us think that the Lords as it is presently constituted is defensible. But the all bells and whistles proposals put forward by Nick Clegg last week just will not get through the Commons. And they certainly won’t get through the Lords.
MARTHA KEARNEY: There we have it. A Conservative MP supporting the thoughts of Chairman Mao. You don’t hear that every day. Stewart Jackson, thank you.