DAVID Cameron's ham-fisted handling of the UK Conservative representation in the European Parliament went from bad to worse on Tuesday when voting took place for office holders in the newly elected parliament. Having formed the new “European conservatives and reformists” group with MEP's from several minor parties, Mr Cameron agreed that the Polish MEP Michal Kaminski should stand for one of the vice-presidencies of the parliament with UK support.

However, the longest serving Conservative MEP Edward McMillan Scott who was a vice-president in the previous parliament refused to step down, despite an appeal from Mr Cameron, and as a result Mr Kaminski was not elected. Worse was to come. The Poles said that as compensation they should have the leadership of Mr Cameron's newly formed party but the UK Conservative leader, Timothy Kirkhope, proposed that the post should be shared. The Poles refused.

The outcome, insofar as it can be determined, is that Mr Cameron was unable to deliver a promise he made to the Poles on the parliament's vice-presidency and has lost the leadership of the rump party he formed after leaving the mainstream right-wing People's' Party in the parliament. Mr Cameron's obsession with blocking the Lisbon Treaty has led him into partnership with some dubious fringe parties in the EU. It was also going to be difficult to hold his new party together and Tuesday's disastrous start does not augur well for doing so.