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Friday, 30 August 2013

Parliament says 'no' to Cameron on Syria

Yesterday, British Members of Parliament voted against military action against Syria. All in all, Mr Cameron and the Conservative Party were defeated by 285 to 272, a difference of 13 votes.

Predictably the BBC has said that "people at home and abroad will ask: who is in charge?" Really? I don't think so. It's crystal clear that the British people were against the war. And why would they ask who is in charge if the PM did – eventually – listen to Parliament even though he most certainly didn't listen to the people as a whole? Does the BBC think that only by ignoring the people and Parliament would Cameron have shown us that he was in charge? Is this an arrogance contest or something?

Yes, the British Labour Party opposition will make much of this – and already has. But that's strange because they were against any intervention and presumably they respect the fact that Cameron actually listened to Parliament (if not the British voters). Labour Shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander, has quickly jumped on what he sees to be new prey. He claimed that Prime Minister Cameron and Mr Clegg had lost credibility. Because they listened to Parliament?

The BBC's political editor, Nick Robinson, said that Cameron has now become "a diminished figure". Why? Is it because, again, he has listened to Parliament? I can't help thinking that Robinson would not have said this if the foreign intervention had not been to his taste. In other words, those who want action in Syria now believe Cameron has been diminished as a leader; and those who don't want action, don't think that.

Even the Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, has said that America may now question the value and reliability of Britain as an ally. That's strange, because the US hasn't committed itself to action either and there's a chance it may not do so. Or is he saying that America, or Obama, will question the British PM's foolishness of listening to – or obeying – Parliament?

It is clear that Cameron, and especially William Hague (the Foreign Secretary), were itching for war with Syria. Hague almost admitted as much. Only yesterday he said that it's "very important not to take so long to respond that people confuse what the eventual response is about". That says it all! He wanted to intervene before the UN reports and therefore regardless of the facts. In other words, he wanted to intervene, full stop.

In addition (although it's not such a pressing matter now), can anyone tell me what all these British Government references to an intervention being 'legal' actually mean? They can't mean UN legality because Cameron and Hague had already said they'd bypass that. So what did the possible action in Syria being legal – then, if not now – amount to? Did the Government mean that its actions would have been legal simply because, well, all it needs to do is make them legal? What I mean is that ultimately governments themselves decide what's legal in cases of war – and a good thing too, bearing in mind the power of the United Nations and the European Union. Therefore whatever the Government does in these cases will presumably be legal. Or do Haig and co mean something more profound and esoteric by the word 'legal'?

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