Soap Box: Dominic Church, MD, Westminster Advisers

Due to the transatlantic absence of David Cameron, Parliament was last week abuzz with Nick Clegg's bravura stand-in performance at Prime Minister's Questions.

Dominic Church: MD, Westminster Advisers
Dominic Church: MD, Westminster Advisers

Microphones even picked up the Justice Secretary discussing the performance with Mr Speaker.

Conservative MPs loudly cheered as Clegg took Harriet Harman to task over the previous government's record on the NHS. The only lull in coalition harmony came during a question by Peter Lilley, tersely querying why so much time has been spent discussing House of Lords reform during a time of economic crisis.

The Deputy Prime Minister sharply replied that plenty of time had also been spent discussing electoral boundary changes, an issue, he pointed out, of great interest to Conservative members.

It is no wonder the Deputy Prime Minister refrains from giving the electoral boundary changes his glowing endorsement. Analysis shows that the Lib Dems stand to lose 11 of their current seats - potentially many more if their current dire polling figures don't improve. Due to the lay of the electoral land, the Conservatives stand to benefit most from Lib Dem boundary worries - noted Lib Dem names including transport minister Norman Baker stand to be rendered seatless by the changes, while Business Secretary Vince Cable potentially faces a battle royale in the redrawn Richmond and Twickenham seat with Conservative rising star Zac Goldsmith.

Clegg can afford to be firm on the issue of Lords reform. The Lib Dems could pay a high price for any changes to electoral boundaries. Still smarting from the tuition fees debacle, as well as the Health Bill, this may be one area where he can stand his ground.

If the Conservatives delay Lords reform, Clegg and his party will feel no obligation whatsoever to wave through the self-inflicted wound of boundary changes.

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