Westminster was quiet during the Olympics. But there was one major political story which pierced the gloom, when Nick Clegg took to the airwaves to announce he was backing out of plans to cut the number of MPs in the House of Commons.
This has implications for the West Midlands, as the current plans involve losing five MPs in the region, leaving us with 54. Almost every seat would be changed in some way, and only ten constituencies would remain as they are.
In Birmingham, which would lose one seat, it could have led to nasty selection battle involving the sitting Labour MPs.
Two arguments are put forward for these changes. One is that some constituencies are currently much larger than others, which means some people effectively have less representation than others. Meriden, in Solihull, has about 83,000 voters while Aldridge Brownhills, in the Black Country, has around 59,000.
The other is that the public wants efficient and cost-effective politics, and having fewer MPs provides that.
The second argument is harder to defend. Of course we all like to complain about politicians but people do go their MPs for help, or write them letters about issues of the day and expect a reply.
If we have fewer MPs – which means the remaining MPs have a larger area to cover – then your chances of getting your MP’s attention go down slightly. Yes, the nation will save on the salary (£65,738 each) and associated office costs of 50 MPs, but that’s not going to make a difference to the public finances.
That’s my view at least. But Mr Clegg’s objection is a very different one.
He’s angry because a number of Conservative MPs refused to back reform of the House of Lords. Their rebellion in July forced the Government to scrap a planned Commons vote related to the reform – because it knew it would lose – and eventually led David Cameron to admit he could not get Mr Clegg’s proposals for an elected second chamber through the Commons.
Lib Dem opposition to boundary reform is retaliation for the perceived failure by the Conservatives to live up to the promises they made in the Coalition Agreement, signed by both parties following the 2010 general election.
Solihull Lib Dem MP Lorely Burt said: “The Coalition Agreement is like a contract. If one party doesn’t deliver then the contract needs to be adjusted.”
But she also added: “Rejecting the boundary changes doesn’t impinge on the concerns of the Tory backbenchers who are concerned about Lords reform. What it does is to upset people at the top of the Conservative Party.”
In other words, the MPs who blocked Lords reform aren’t really going to suffer as a result of Mr Clegg’s decision. After all, cutting the number of MPs actually makes their jobs less secure, and they may quietly celebrate the proposal being ditched.
What it does is to make life harder for Mr Cameron.