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Nick Clegg Formally Buries Lords Reform And Cuts A Lonely Figure As His MPs Fall Silent

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Nick Clegg cut a lonely figure at the despatch box, formally confirming Lords Reforms were dead | PA

"I would like to make a statement on House of Lords reform," announced Nick Clegg to the Commons on Monday afternoon. "Or what's left of it," he added, quite gamely.

Clegg was lighthearted, joking along with MPs who shouted "1911" when he offered a run-down on recent developments on Lords reform.

But the Lib Dem leader was here to do something fairly painful - formally notify the Commons that Lords reforms had died a painful death over the summer, and on the first day back from recess the Bill was formally being withdrawn.

Tory backbenchers present, many of whom had played their part in torpedoing the legislation by voting against it in July, couldn't resist a cheer.

Lib Dem ministers packed out the front benches. Tory MP Mark Harper sat loyally next to Clegg, reminding everyone that he'd been such a trooper and will probably be rewarded with higher office in the reshuffle. The only other Tory present was Sir George Young, probably serving his final day in his job of the Leader of the House.

"The government courted compromise at every turn'" said Clegg briskly, saying it was unfortunate the Bill "cannot be kept on track" because it would unreasonably drag out debates.

"How will we fill the gap in the legislative timetable?" Clegg wondered out loud, presumably anyone able to tune into a TV was waiting with baited breath for the answer. "We will bring forward measures to promote growth," he offered, clearly having forgotten that Andrew Marr's sofa is now the right and proper place for that sort of thing.

Clegg decided not to mention boundary changes in his remarks but really the Lib Dems voting them down at some point was first on everyone else's minds. As Clegg made clear over the summer, the Tories' refusal to allow Lords reform will mean the changes to Commons seats envisaged by David Cameron will now be blocked - making it exceptionally hard for the Tories to win a majority next time.

Responding for Labour Harriet Harman, impressively deadpan, told Clegg: "We share his disappointment." Tories jeered.

"We cannot have an unelected chamber making decisions on the law of the land," Harman went on. "We should have been able to make progress." She neglected to mention that it was her own leader Ed Miliband who frustrated that progress, but pointed out it was a waste of time for the Boundary Commission to continue its work if Clegg was going to effectively veto their planned changes.

Harman urged Clegg to tell the Boundary Commission to put down their pens and calculators and do something else. "We assure him of our support for that," she said, to Tory laughs.

Clegg accused Harman of "spectacular insincerity" and said Labour should be ashamed of themselves, but the Lib Dem leader found himself strangely alone, with his own backbench MPs curiously unwilling to help him out and jeer along at the other side.

But asked repeatedly whether there was anything Cameron could offer Clegg to make him soften his stance on boundary changes, Clegg insisted: "They should not and indeed will not go ahead. Nothing will change my mind on that."

Unfortunately Clegg admitted that he was powerless to stop the Boundary Commission from beavering away, drawing up constituency boundaries which he and Lib Dems would then shoot down in flames. Never mind, it'll only waste a few tens of millions of pounds, what's to worry about?