After a century of attempts, will the House of Lords be reformed?
On Wednesday night, Cameron told Conservative MPs that he would make one further attempt to get an agreement over the summer months, although he faces a tough task since many of his people voted on grounds of principle, not just political devilment (although there was much of that too).
Clegg has laid great stress on the programme for government, saying the Conservatives agreed to an elected upper chamber. The difficulty for Clegg is that the text does not actually go that far.
Instead, the agreement pledged both sides to “establish a committee to bring forward proposals for a wholly or mainly elected upper chamber on the basis of proportional representation”. Such work would be done by December 2010.
Understandably, the Liberal Democrats argue that this must be read as a statement of intent, saying trust would be impossible if everyone was to parse and analyse every line.
Most Conservative MPs believe an elected senate would threaten the primacy of the House of Commons, destroying the long- held conventions and laws that have governed the relationship for 100 years.
The Lords can only delay legislation for a year. If the legislation is passed once again by MPs, it passes using the powers of the Parliament Act – first brought in to deal with Irish demands for Home Rule. It has been used only four times.
Equally, the Lords do not oppose promises made in election manifestoes, which is why a Conservative-controlled upper house did not block the creation of the National Health Service by Labour after the second World War.
Clegg’s opponents insist that all these conventions will be lost.
Elected senators will seek to expand their powers over time, threatening a logjam in British politics, where a government with a Commons majority could be unable to rule.
Equally, opponents point to the work done by the House of Lords, which could often teach lessons to MPs in how to delve into every clause and subclause of legislation at committee stage.
The current reform of the NHS is a case in point.
British health secretary Andrew Lansley produced a badly written Bill. MPs failed to make it a whole lot better, while the Lords, to their credit, did much to improve it.
To doubters, one can but recommend reading the publications by MPs on European Union matters and comparing them with the work penned by “the other place”.
The comparison flatters the venerable lords and baronesses.