Wednesday, March 05, 2008

When Is A 3-Line Whip Not A 3-Line Whip?

Nick Clegg has put a 3-line whip on his Lib Dem colleagues to abstain on tonights Commmons vote on whether there should be a referendum. 'Sounding the trumpet and marching his troops fearlessly towards the fence on which they are to perch', as Tory MP Michael Ancrum put it earlier.

However, it seems that at least 3 of Clegg's frontbenchers are set to defy the whip and resign their posts this evening. The word is that to try and stem the anticipated tide of further resignations, he has now given dispensation to his junior spokespeople to vote for a referendum, but without forcing them to resign if they do.

By trying to make a false choice between a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty and a referendum on the EU itself, Clegg has made his party look opportunistic. By putting a 3-line whip on an abstention (I ask you!) and refusing to support amendments which would let his party get their referendum, he's made them look ridiculous. Now, by backing away from his earlier threat, he's made himself look weak and incompetent, and his party irrelevant.

You couldn't make it up, but it seems that if you're Nick Clegg, you can certainly manage to muck it up. Where's Vince Cable when you need him? :-)

Belated Update: Orkney & Shetland MP Alastair Carmichael has quit the frontbench, which means the Lib Dems will be on their 4th Scottish Spokesperson in 2 years.


Jeff said...

Incredible ineptitude.

It almost makes the Labour budget fiasco look half-decent...

Richard Thomson said...

Steady now, Jeff :-)

No, seriously, you're right. It beggars belief how they could have landed themselves in this mess. It really does.

Calum Cashley said...

Geniuses one and all!

Good line from Ancram.