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Wednesday 11th July 2012 | 21:48
It's fair to say that Nick Clegg was not told in advance about the PM's olive branch to the 1922 Committee of a 'smaller' number of elected peers.
But the DPM is remarkably sanguine about all of this, it seems. He was the one who pushed for the 'one more try' approach, it seems.
He is fully signed up to the idea that this debate can't drag on and dominate Government business. He and Cam are not entirely on the same page: it seems his understanding of 'the Autumn' means September rather than October (he wants to bring back the bill in the first week of the September sitting), whereas the PM may prefer post-conference.
Yet the DPM is clearly prepared to compromise. Clegg will tell anyone who will listen that he is actually open to the idea of a 'trigger' for future stages of election after 2015.
Given the wall of noise and ridicule he faced on Monday, it went largely unnoticed that he was gave a strong hint of this compromise. Here's what he said:
"It is essential that we make a start by having the first 120 elected peers elected in 2015. If the hon. Gentleman or other Members of this place want further reassurance about the triggers that would then allow the second and third waves of election to take place, of course I, and the Government as a whole, will be prepared to engage with that..."
The idea of a trigger is something that Clegg has discussed with Jack Straw, who first came up with the idea (like many of the current Lord plans). It wasn't enough this week to quell the rebellion, but reassurance on 'triggers' could form a key plank of any truce. The Lib Dems could claim the overall plan is still for a 'largely elected' chamber, but it would just happen later.
If the PM is now talking about simply replacing the 92 hereditaries with elected senators, there doesn't seem much difference between that and the 120 Clegg wants. If that small gap of 28 peers is the difference between reform or no reform, I suspect the Lib Dems would settle for the lower figure.
Clegg obviously believes that MPs will come round once they realise the world hasn't fallen apart and locusts haven't descended from the sky after the election of a small number of peers.
But perhaps the biggest surprise is this: Clegg even seems 'grown-up' (one of his favourite phrases to colleagues) about the prospect of Tory rebels digging in.
If Cam comes back in early September and says he just can't get his party to budge, that will 'be a bit of a problem'. Note that doesn't mean The End of the Coalition. It just means 'a bit of a problem'.
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