By Ray Fleming AT this time one year ago the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in Britain were finalising the Coalition Agreement which sets out the joint work programme drawn from the election manifestos of the two parties. This impressive document lists some 150 policy objectives or administrative actions and after the failure of the AV referendum last week I decided to check on what else the Agreement has in prospect. On page 27, right next to the AV referendum entry, there is this: “Bring forward proposals for a wholly or mainly elected upper chamber on the basis of proportional representation”.

As with AV, this proposal falls into deputy prime minister Nick Clegg's “constitutional reform” remit and he will have the task of pushing it through both Houses of Parliament. After the shock of the AV referendum he will hardly relish the task. The phrases “wholly or mainly elected” and “on the basis of proportional representation” are loaded with potential difficulty to add to the fact that the upper chamber has resisted reform for the better part of a century. Faced by some 700 peers who are unlikely to be helpful in legislating themselves out of a job, Mr Clegg would be well advised, before embarking on this journey, to find out just how much active support he will get from the prime minister, the cabinet and Conservative MPs and their counterparts in the Lords.