UK coalition hits skids but divorce unlikely - yet

British Prime Minister David Cameron's two-year marriage with his junior coalition partners has hit the skids.

LONDON - Prime Minister David Cameron's two-year marriage with his junior coalition partners has hit the skids, but fear of electoral drubbing will probably keep them from divorce - for now.

No matter how angry the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition parties are after their biggest ever row, neither can yet afford to sink the coalition in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg sounded like a betrayed spouse when he took to the airwaves to denounce Cameron's Conservatives for abandoning plans for elections to the House of Lords, the unelected upper house of parliament.

"The Conservative Party is not honouring the commitment to Lords reform, and as a result, part of our contract has been broken," Clegg told reporters after announcing the demise of his plans for reform of the Lords.

The reform has been a goal for generations for the Liberal Democrats, who say the upper house, made up of political appointees, hereditary lords and bishops, is undemocratic and maintains the power of bigger parties.

Clegg said the Liberal Democrats would oppose the government's plan to redraw constituency boundaries for the more powerful House of Commons, a pet project for Conservatives who hope it would win them as many as 20 extra seats.

But the tussle over political reform has illustrated the fissures within the coalition which some analysts said could disintegrate well before the 2015 national election.

Patrick Dunleavy, professor of politics at the London School of Economics, said Cameron could opt to sink the coalition and take his chances in an election as early as next year if the economic crisis showed signs of deepening.

"David Cameron would be extremely foolish or outright bonkers to try to stumble on until 2015," said Dunleavy.

"The big problem in these kind of coalitions is that they tend to unzip from the end. The temptation is to bail before the last. But if I know you are going to bail before the last, what should I do? I should bail in the period before the next to last, and so on. That logic works incredibly powerfully."

If and when the coalition unravels will depend on the economy and opinion polls: so far, the economy is showing no signs of growth and voters are unhappy.

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