|Clegg knows he and the Lib Dems are finished - they have no where to go|
The Liberal Democrats would cease to exist as a party if they brought down the Coalition over Europe and triggered an early election, Nick Clegg warned his MPs last night.
The Deputy Prime Minister told a private meeting of more than 100 MPs and peers that he would not play “Russian roulette” with the Conservatives over David Cameron’s rejection of a new European treaty.
He said: “I don’t want to be the last leader of the Liberal Democrats by provoking a general election today.”
Mr Clegg’s public attacks on Mr Cameron over Europe have raised questions about the future of the Coalition but the Deputy Prime Minister told his party he intends to remain in power with the Conservatives until the election due in 2015.
Earlier, Mr Clegg had seemed to backtrack from his former position by ordering his MPs to back a Commons motion “commending” Mr Cameron for rejecting the treaty. Mr Clegg has denounced Mr Cameron’s refusal to endorse a treaty aimed at creating a fiscal union between eurozone countries, suggesting the decision could harm British interests.
But Liberal Democrat MPs were told to vote in favour of a Commons motion describing the Prime Minister’s veto as “a vital means of defending the national interests of the UK”.
Lib Dems were also ordered to back a motion for “a rebalancing of the relationship with our European neighbours”, echoing the calls of eurosceptic Tories.
It was tabled by the Ulster Unionists and backed by the Conservatives, while Labour were opposed. To avoid the spectacle of Coalition MPs voting both ways — and a government defeat — Lib Dem MPs were whipped to vote in favour, too.
The decision exposed Mr Clegg to allegations that he has had three positions on the treaty in five days. Having initially given Mr Cameron lukewarm support on Friday, a Lib Dem backlash forced him to criticise the Prime Minister on Sunday.
So there we have it - the Tories can do what they like until 2015 and their Lib Dem poodles will just suck it up!