Where does Clegg stand?

The leader of the most pro-European party has yet to comment on last night's deal.

Where do the Lib Dems, the most pro-European party in British politics, stand on last night's extraordinary events? William Hague told the Today programme that Nick Clegg had "signed up" to the deal but it would be nice to hear from the man himself. Six weeks ago, Clegg, a former Eurocrat and MEP, warned against the emergence of a "a weaker and divisive Europe where the aims of 'euro-ins' are set against those of 'euro-outs'" but that's exactly what's happened.

Lib Dem rebel Matthew Oakeshott has already described this as "a black day for Britain and for Europe", attacking Cameron for appeasing the "special interests in the City of London". More will surely break ranks. One suspects that David Owen, the former leader of the SDP, who is now a crossbench peer, spoke for many in Clegg's party when he said:

We have to ask ourselves why the government has allowed us to get into this mess. Have we been coherently governed over the last few months? Is this coalition able to represent British interests? Or are we being driven by about 80 to 90 Conservatives who want us to get out of the EU?

If Clegg really has accepted the emergence of a two-speed Europe, it would represent his biggest U-turn to date.

Update: Clegg has now issued a statement on last night's events. Here's the key section:

I regret that last night it proved to be impossible to find a way forward as a group of 27 on European treaty change.

I have said for months that it would be best to avoid arcane debates about treaty change altogether and if we had to proceed down that road, it would be best to do so in a way that did not create divisions in Europe

The demands Britain made for safeguards, on which the Coalition Government was united, were modest and reasonable. They were safeguards for the single market, not just the UK.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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How our actual real-life adult politicians are mourning Big Ben falling silent

MPs are holding a vigil for a big bell.

Democracy in action in the Mother of Parliaments has always been a breathtaking spectacle, and today is no exception. For a group of our elected representatives, the lawmakers, the mouthpieces for the needy, vulnerable and voiceless among us, will be holding a silent vigil, heads bowed, for the stopping of Big Ben’s bongs for four years.

That’s right. Our politicians are mourning an old bell that won’t chime for a limited period.

Here’s everything ludicrous they’ve been saying about it:

“Of course we want to ensure people’s safety at work but it can’t be right for Big Ben to be silent for four years.

“And I hope that the speaker, as the chairman of the House of Commons commission, will look into this urgently so that we can ensure that we can continue to hear Big Ben through those four years.”

- The Right Honourable Theresa May MP, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, head of Her Majesty’s Government.

“There’s going to be a small group of us standing there with bowed heads in the courtyard… a group of like-minded traditionalists.

“We’re going to be gathering outside the members’ entrance, gazing up at this noble, glorious edifice, listening to the sounds rolling across Westminster, summoning true democrats to the Palace of Westminster.

“We’ll be stood down there with heads bowed but hope in our hearts.”

- Stephen Pound, Labour MP for Ealing North, Shadow Minister for Northern Ireland Where There Are Actual Issues.

“Why can’t they switch the bells back on when they stop working at 5pm or 6pm or whenever it is? Also why is it taking four years?… My own view is that Big Ben, whether it be the Elizabeth Tower or indeed the bell inside, it’s not just one of the most iconic British things, it’s one of the most iconic world things, it’s on a Unesco site.”

- Nigel Evans, Conservative MP for the Ribble Valley and Adult Human Person.

“Four years to repair Big Ben?! We could have left the EU twice in that time.”

- The Right Honourable Lord Adonis, formerly of the No 10 Policy Unit and ex-Secretary of State for Transport.

“I think Big Ben ought to be kept striking as much as possible during the repairs as long as it doesn’t deafen the work force.

“It would be symbolically uplifting for it to sound out our departure from the EU as a literally ringing endorsement of democracy.”

 - The Honourable Jacob Rees-Mogg, Conservative MP for North East Somerset and Our Future Overlord.

“We are being liberated from the European Union superstate and Britain will again be a completely self-governing country. Where will the eyes of the world be? On Parliament and Big Ben. It would be very strange if at midnight on that day it does not chime out, very bizarre. It is the heart of our nation.”

 - Peter Bone, Conservative MP for the Unfortunate Doomed of Wellingborough. 

Others have responded:

“[Silencing the bell is] not a national disaster or catastrophe.”

- The Right Honourable Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition (to broken clocks).

“When you see the footage [on Monday] of our colleagues who gather at the foot of Big Ben you will not see too many colleagues who have careers ahead of them.”

- Conor Burns (by name and by nature), Conservative MP for Bournemouth West and Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Foreign Secretary.

“I think we should respect people’s health and safety while we’re at work.

“To be honest, there are more important things to be worrying about. We’ve got Grenfell Tower, we’ve got thousands of people across our country let down who don’t get access to proper mental health care, and so on and so forth.

“Quite apart from what’s happened in Barcelona, let’s just get a life and realise there are more important things around.”

- The Right Honourable Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, former Health Minister, and National Voice of Reason 2017.

I'm a mole, innit.