Yesterday's Tory backbench rebellion over a referendum on Europe has highlighted again how Conservative leaders seem effortlessly capable of creating a political crisis out of a drama whenever the EU edges to the top of the agenda.
To be sure, none of the three main parties have a consistent or honourable record on the question of a Euro-referendum. Labour and the Liberal Democrats promised to let the people decide on the proposed EU constitution, but swiftly reneged on the grounds that it had been relabelled as the “Lisbon Treaty”. But it is for the Conservatives that this issue is truly toxic. The party is no longer divided between those supportive of the European project and those antagonistic to it, but instead splits fairly equally between renegotiators and withdrawalists. The Prime Minister is therefore sailing in very treacherous waters.