The week in review: Just another monster Tory uprising

Most political parties which collectively shoot themselves in the foot again and again eventually learn their lesson. Not the Conservatives.

The political equivalent of a bullet boring its way into the sole of the Tory party (pun intended) took place on Wednesday night, when eurosceptic ringleader John Baron grimly pulled the trigger and pushed his amendment regretting the absence of an EU referendum bill from the Queen's Speech to a vote.

David Cameron, who spent the first half of the week in the United States trying to persuade Barack Obama he still has something to offer the special relationship, insisted he was "relaxed" before, during and after this painful process. It was about as convincing as someone having their tooth pulled with a pair of pliers and no painkillers insisting they were feeling calm and tranquil.

The prime minister flew back on Thursday morning to a Britain where his authority is thoroughly diminished. He has been slapped around by his party's eurosceptic wing once again. But the situation could have been far, far worse. Fate was about to intervene in his favour.

The scene in committee room ten on Thursday morning was a truly preposterous one. There were just over 100 Tory 'rebels' the previous evening, but three of them were chosen among the top seven who will have a decent go at pushing the Conservative-endorsed EU referendum bill through parliament. God, Douglas Carswell concluded, is a eurosceptic. But we thought of that gag first.

It's James Wharton, the winner of the ballot, who gets the first go and was quick to confirm he will use it to try and get the Tory bill into law. Wharton is a very young MP, not even in his 30s, but has already packed some eyebrow-raising episodes into his nascent political career.

We spoke to the Europe minister on his Foreign Office sofa in an attempt to work out what on earth all this actually meant. It is to David Lidington's credit that he genuinely attempted to paint this shambolic state of affairs as a premeditated, carefully thought-out government approach. Good for him.

Cameron is a prisoner of his party's European trauma, but at least this was a liberating week for one former member of his Cabinet. On Monday Chris Huhne emerged blinking in the sunlight after eight weeks behind bars. The end of his incarceration was almost instantly forgotten about by everyone, as a week of obsessing over the EU referendum question slowly ground into motion.

Other senior politicians had tricky weeks, too. Michael Gove and Philip Hammond got into hot water on Sunday for revealing they would leave the EU now. Theresa May faced a tough audience at the Police Federation on Wales, but tried her best to wriggle out of trouble with an applause-grabbing policy. And Ed Miliband found his leadership stability undermined by poll ratings once again, after Ipsos Mori put Labour's lead over the imploding Conservatives at a shockingly slim three points.