This has to be one of the most epic smack downs of a politician in recent memory:
It may be months before the implications of David Cameron's Europe raspberry become clear; it may be days. Then again they may become clear before going fuzzy again, before suddenly crystallising six weeks down the line in horrifying or mildly encouraging detail. My gut instinct is that this is Not Good, and that Britain appears to have bolstered its lack of economic policy with a lack of foreign policy, but in truth I'm in many more minds than the Conservative party about it all.
Of one thing I can be absolutely sure, however, and that is that it doesn't look great for Mr Nicholas Clegg. How he and his pro-Europe party can remain in the coalition after this I do not know – and yet I feel absolutely sure that we shall discover it, in what will go down as his greatest feat of Quislingery yet. He may well be enabling the very destruction of Europe at the same time as remaining its most reedy cheerleader.
It is now clear that the tuition fees U-turn was merely the gateway drug to the big one. Clegg is now mainlining U. His story arc is like some Westminster version of Trainspotting, featuring grotesque scenes of personal degradation in pursuit of what must surely now be an ever-diminishing high. Perhaps a physicist would care to get in touch to explain whether there is a theoretical point at which a being has switch-backed on so many positions that he might simply atomise, leaving nothing but a thin coating of yellow dust and a pair of shoes he never grew into.
Recent history suggests that the next term in the sequence is an extended interview with Clegg placed somewhere or other, in which the deputy prime minister begins lots of sentences with "Look", and says "If you think I'm enjoying this" quite a bit, then explains about "incredibly hard decisions" that he "believes" in, before returning to the womb-like comfort of his ministerial car and shooting up some more U on the back seat.
This relationship dynamic may well have secured Britain's destruction in Europe, and it has almost certainly secured the Liberal Democrats' destruction for the foreseeable. Whether their MPs will be able to fill a taxi after the next general election is a matter of debate.Ouch, ouch, ouch. Not much you can add to that and what a great piece of writing by Hyde.
Of more ghoulish fascination, though, is the next Lib Dem manifesto. What could this document possibly include? There are whole areas that in any sane universe it would be literally too embarrassing to mention, and given that these include major planks of what used to be called Liberal Democrat policy, such as Europe and education, I've genuinely no idea where they'll go with this one. Blank pages? Something nice and inclusive about fish? The mere fact of something appearing as a Liberal Democrat manifesto pledge has come to symbolise that it is terminally doomed as an idea. Perhaps the best way to eradicate poverty would be to draft up a Lib Dem manifesto commitment to perpetuating it.
The coalition was going to be hard irrespective of issues that came up and the Lib Dems are committed to the full term. But just what they are getting out of it remains unclear. See above.
As for David Cameron's keeping them out of the new EU treaty, while it's hard for anyone to say what's going to happen with the EU now that they've come to a new agreement, the move by Britain does seem to be going over for the most part like a lead balloon.
Update (6:30 p.m.): Nick Clegg gets it! Could be interesting times ahead for the coalition government in the UK.