When Sir Menzies Campbell was forced out many Lib Dems were privately rejoicing at the prospects of a firmer leader and a more organised party. Yesterday those hopes were well and truly shattered.
Over 20% of the parliamentary party rebelled on a three line whip and three members of the most senior part of the frontbench team resigned over the issue. The only reasons there weren't more resignations is apparently due to some rule that allows junior spokespersons to rebel and keep their post. Well the Liberal Democrats are a party that like to pretend you can have your cake and eat it.
It's strange because the Lib Dems are the party for whom all the arguments over whether or not the Lisbon Treaty is pretty much the same thing as the EU Constitution should be utterly irrelevant. They called for a referendum on the Maastricht Treaty and have long called for government to trust the people. Then they turned round and decided that the people can't be trusted.
Is it any surprise that the Liberal Democrat blogosphere is now in uproar? (Dizzy Thinks: Is the Lib Dem blogosphere rebelling too?, Norfolk Blogger: Suddenly you realise you are not so different after all, New Model Army: Send in the clowns... and more.) On this first major test of Nick Clegg's leadership he has flunked it and shown that he is more concerned with promoting European centralism than in leadership. The EU is not known for being the most democratic of organisations and is it unsurprising that an ex MEP seeks to block the people having a say and instead makes only tokenistic gestures trying to divide the referendum movement?