Peter Hoskin

Clegg keeps digging

Clegg keeps digging
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As James Kirkup reports over at Three Line Whip, Nick Clegg’s still getting himself into a "pickle" over Europe.  Here are the three key points which came out of his media briefing earlier today:

“Yes, [Clegg]'s put his MPs on a three line whip not to vote at all when the Commons decides on a Tory bid for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

But no, he won't say if he'll sack the (significant) number of front-benchers who may well defy him on that: ‘I'm allowed to decide at that time.’

And no, he (probably) won't allow his side to back a clever two-question amendment being worked up by Ian Davidson, a Labour rebel, which might just have given him a get-out:  ‘We certainly aren't getting into game-playing.’”

And so Clegg continues to foist his bizarre position on the rest of the Lib Dems.  But his reluctance to confirm whether or not he’ll sack front-bench rebels suggests that he's worried.  Particularly after I Want a Referendum’s bombshell, a pledge to sack the rebels could well amount to a decimation of the Lib Dems' top team.  Clegg's trying to avoid that difficult situation.

But what of the third point?  As Fraser wrote, Davidson's sound proposal is an "early test of Nick Clegg's credibility" and of his alleged commtment to an in-or-out referendum.  Simply put: Clegg has now failed that test.  And in doing so, he's dug himself a very deep hole indeed.