Two Lib Dem frontbenchers are—in open defiance of their party line—supporting a referendum on the EU Reform Treaty, Sam Coates reveals this morning. This is a major challenge to Nick Clegg’s authority: if he lets David Heath and Nick Harvey get away with this then it will be hard for him to enforce party discipline on any other issue. Yet, if he sacks them he will draw attention to the fact that the Lib Dems have gone back on their manifesto promise to support a referendum on the treaty.
Heath is in a particularly tricky position as he has a wafer-thin majority in a Euro-sceptic constituency and has been adamant that he will support a referendum come what may. How Clegg handles this coming crisis will tell us a lot about his leadership skills.