Thursday, September 05, 2013

Regarding the Syria War Vote

I'm astonished that David Cameron hasn't resigned.

Consider what happened.

He dramatically and portentiously recalled Parliament at great expense for the vote on Thursday 29th August - even though he could have waited just a few days till Monday when Parliament was due to reconvene anyway. But a debate on Monday wouldn't have had the Drama that recalling Parliament early would have had.

He then posed for some pictures which were used incessantly by the war-friendly newspapers, of himself striding purposefully to Parliament - all to convey that he was a Man of Action.

During the debate itself, he kept ad-libbing jokes, in sharp contrast to the serious manner in which Thatcher conducted the Falklands War debate and Blair conducted the Iraq War debate. But in Cameron's mind the killing in a war wasn't important. Syria was going to Make His Name, and he was Having Fun, and why not show it!

Then Parliament slapped him down and he lost the vote.

Losing a vote on war and peace is akin to losing a vote on the budget or Queen's speech - it indicates you've lost the confidence of the house, and usually triggers a general election.

The last time a minority government fell - Callaghan's - it was brought down on the minor issue of a referendum in Scotland, and it was the Scottish Nationalists who delivered the blow by voting with the Tories. Minor issue or not, Parliament was dissolved and a general election was called, and nobody moaned about it - that was politics.

But Cameron clings on, and his latest tactic is to blame Ed Miliband for his defeat. But it's not the opposition's job to prop up a government, their job is to oppose it and defeat it, which Ed Miliband duly did. It's not Ed Miliband's fault that Cameron was unable to secure a majority in the 2010 election, and that he is unable to control the motley crew of Tories that did get elected - that's all down to Cameron.

Cameron might imagine he can overthrow three centuries of precedence and remain Prime Minister - but the old rules about power still hold. A Prime Minister who cannot command the Commons is impotent. Cameron is in office but not in power, and it's only a matter of time before this reality registers.