As has been reported elsewhere, the Liberal Democrats missed an open goal on Monday night. The government won the vote on the anti-terrorism bill by just 14 votes, as 17 Liberal Democrat MPs - including Charlie K - didn't vote. That's right, the Liberal Democrats could have defeated the government, but couldn't get almost a third of their MPs to turn up. Most spectacularly, Charlie couldn't be there because he had a TV interview to prepare for.
Mark Oaten claims that
'It was a miscalculation by everyone at every level. There was chaos in the chamber and we had no idea at all that the rebellion would be of that size; my feeling was that Clarke had probably bought off Robin Cook and the other rebels.'
Surely, with a rebellion in the offing, wouldn't you want to get every last one of your MPs through the lobbies to eat into the government majority?
However, there is another possibility. The Liberal Democrats are well aware that keeping the controversy over the bill alive helps them politically and damages the government.
But they wouldn't put liberty at risk for cheap political advantage, would they? After all, Charlie promised that 'The Liberal Democrats will take a stand on our civil liberties.'
So, incompetent or cynical?