The numbers look potentially tricky
A key moment in the last parliament was in July 2012 when CON back-bench rebels voted down a timetable motion on the Lords Reform bill thus making it highly unlikely that it would get through the house. A few days later Cameron pulled the plans completely – a move that led to Mr. Clegg pulling the plug on boundary reform.
So the upper house remains unreformed something that could be tricky for the government as it tries to move forward with its legislative programme. In the last parliament the coalition’s numbers made the task much easier. Now things might be different.
There’s a good article by UCL Prof Meg Russell on the challenges that might lie ahead. For although the LDs were almost totally smashed on Thursday the party still has 101 members of the Lords, who are there for life, and this could present obstacles in a whole series of ways.
She notes that the band of LD peers has “swelled impressively over time â€“ in his 10 years as Prime Minister Tony Blair appointed 54 Lib Dem peers; in the five years 2010-15 David Cameron appointed a further 40.”. She goes on:-
“..So the Conservatives are in a relatively weak position in the Lords, holding less than a third of seats. The government can readily be defeated by various combinations of other forces â€“ including Labour, Liberal Democrats, Bishops and Crossbenchers. These last two groups vote less frequently than party peers, and also do not vote as a block. So the key group is â€“ once again â€“ the Liberal Democrats. They are now numerically stronger than before, and following recent events are badly bruised. Despite having worked until recently alongside the Conservatives, their instincts may now often be to vote with Labour. The Lords has traditionally taken a stand on constitutional issues (recall the climbdowns forced on Blair over restricting trial by jury, detaining terrorist suspects, and introducing ID cards) â€“ so we can expect clashes over the governmentâ€™s plans to repeal Human Rights Act, reform parliamentary boundaries and hold an EU in-out referendum, where Labour and Lib Dems will readily find common cause…”
Of course Cameron could try to appoint dozen of new CON peers to bring the numbers into line but as Prof Russell points out the Tory manifesto had a commitment to address the size of the chamber and to have any effect a large number would have to be appointed.