I am variously invited to comment on how the coalition is operating. In the context of Parliament, it is a little early to say. We are in a unique situation. We have had coalition governments before (most recently 1940-45), we have had substantial structural or procedural reform in the Commons following an election (1979), and we have had a major turnover of MPs (1945, 1997), but this is the first time we have had all three together. The situation is exacerbated by the operation of IPSA, meaning that many MPs have still not got their offices fully functioning. The Commons returns briefly in September and both Houses in October. Only then we will be able to see how realtionships are developing.
We are also in a unique situation in the Lords. From the time of Pitt the Younger through to 1999, there was a Tory preponderance in the House. That changed with the House of Lords Act, with no party enjoying a majority over the other parties in the House, and with an acceptance that this should remain the case. As the research of Meg Russell reveals, the balance of power was held in effect by the Liberal Democrats. We now have a coalition that enjoys a clear majority over the only organised opposition party. The Government is vulnerable to defeat only if there is a large turnour of cross-benchers and they split heavily against the Government – and there are some abstentions on the Coalition benches. That has actually happened twice already, but whether it happens again on any significant basis remains to be seen – and may be crucial in determining how the Lords is seen by the public.