The Netherlands’ spat with Turkey helped Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte see off a populist threat at the polls this week but the gloves are still off in this increasingly absurd diplomatic dispute. Some 40 Holstein cows are due to be sent back from Turkey to the Netherlands as a symbolic gesture of cutting ties, while Turkey’s foreign minister has apocalyptically warned of a future “holy war” in Europe. It’s headline-grabbing stuff and perhaps intentionally so: the dispute has buried a string of bad news for Turkey. Youth unemployment and the budget deficit for the month of February are at their highest since 2009 and a damning new UN report details human-rights violations by the security services in the predominantly Kurdish southeast. Next month’s constitutional referendum is crucial for president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government – and Ankara will want to spin this story out for as long as it can.