This week the coalition government (I feel they need a name along the lines of “Axis of Evil” but I can’t think of anything clever or funny) managed to lose the chance to reform the House of Lords. Oddly enough, this is only the second real bloody nose that the coalition has really suffered, the other being that the Liberal Democrat half of it managed to spectacularly lose the referendum on AV.
Nicholas Clegg has seemingly only one priority in government: to bring about electoral reform that will benefit his party. Unfortunately, in pursuing this while allowing the Conservatives to do whatever they want in general, he makes his party unelectable. He also isn’t actually managing to achieve any of his aims, with Cameron either opposing him on them or somehow unable to get them through Parliament.
The problem for the Liberals, and one I would assume they understand (although they do seem to be spectacularly politically inept sometimes), is that they are massively unpopular in the country at the moment. If they were to break away from the coalition and force an early election they would almost certainly lose seats, no matter the system. Worse, they are unlikely to ever be in the position to hold the balance of power again.
So the Liberals are stuck with allowing the Conservatives to do what they want in order to try to get any of the concessions that would change the way power is allocated in this country. The Conservatives are quite content as they know they’d fare better from an early election than the Liberals and also that the changes the Liberals want are generally unpopular in the country (partially from being associated with the Liberals themselves) and largely irrelevant. Even watered down versions stand little chance of ever becoming law.
And should any of the changes ever come to pass, it is arguable it would be at least a decade before the Liberals could position themselves in such a way as to benefit from them with the electorate. More likely is that the existing parties would find a way to work the new system and smaller parties would benefit from the change in reality as the dynamics of politics and what people actually vote on changes.
The Liberals have long since spent their political capital and are probably better served for defending the system that they have made it their sole aim to change. What they should have done they have ignored, the irrelevance they pursue has long since become counter productive dogmatism.