As I write, Britain’s Parliament rejected a move for military intervention in Syria:

A Government motion calling for a strong humanitarian response which may have included military strikes was rejected by 272 votes to 285 late on Thursday night.

Thirty Tory rebels and nine Liberal Democrats joined with Labour to inflict a humiliating defeat on the Prime Minister.

After the historic vote, Mr Cameron said: “I strongly believe in the need for a tough response to the use of chemical weapons but I also believe in respecting the will of this House of Commons.

“It is clear to me the British Parliament does not want to see British military action. I get that and the Government will act accordingly.”

What would Tony Blair have done? Probably forced a vote in his favour by bringing out the party whips. Or perhaps have had no vote at all and declared intervention.

Good for David Cameron. Euro MP Daniel Hannan is also positive and says this is the first time this has happened since Cromwell’s Interregnum:

… we have just witnessed a rather beautiful moment. The House of Commons has recovered a prerogative that it wielded for a few brief years in the 1640s, namely control over the deployment of armed power. This shift has come about because David Cameron chose to stick to the letter and spirit of a promise he made in opposition. He was under no legal obligation to secure parliamentary consent for a strike against the Ba’athist regime; but he felt he had given his word, and he was wise enough not to want to launch non-defensive military action without national consent.

… The power of war and peace, the most awful power a state wields, has passed from executive to legislature. David Cameron was plainly sincere in his belief that a military strike would improve matters in Syria, yet he accepted the will of Parliament graciously, courteously and without demur. Good for him. And good for democracy.

The Telegraph’s Tim Stanley points out (emphases mine):

Wow. Think about what just happened. A Conservative British Prime Minister just put a vote to the Commons basically about going to war and the Commons said no – and the Prime Minister has said that he will respect that answer. David Cameron was defeated not just by the collective will of the House but by rebels within his own party. This is a turning point for the British constitution and a turning point for British Toryism. Excuse the hyperbole, but things might never be the same again.

From the democratic point of view, this is an astonishing departure from historical precedent. For a very long time now war has essentially been the responsibility of the Government. The tradition has been for Parliament to back the Government’s decisions and to act more as a watchdog than a policy maker. So the world is turned upside down: Parliament has earned and exercised the right essentially to control the activities of the Cabinet – to say “yay” or “nay” to something that was once seen as being within a realm of political responsibility far removed from ordinary MPs.

From the perspective of Toryism, the Conservative Party is no longer a united party of war. The party of Suez and the Falklands is now far more cautious, more sceptical of state power, more willing to stop and think before acting …

I remember when Labour were in power — the all-too-recent 13-year nightmare — and Tony Blair felt divinely moved to intervene in Afghanistan post-9/11 and later in Iraq. Labour MPs supported him every step of the way. Now a Conservative PM wanted to take action in Syria and Labour MPs — a number of whom were there when Blair was in power — became holier-than-thou about non-intervention.

Labour Party member — or former member — Dan Hodges has this observation:

There are many Labour MPs who voted against the Government yesterday in good conscience. But the spectacle of some of their colleagues who sprinted through the lobbies in support of the Iraq invasion tweeting self-righteous platitudes about how the Government has “to do better” in presenting the case for war was nauseating. If they have genuinely learnt the lessons of 2003 fine. But they should at least have had the good grace to do so with humility.

Hodges is highly critical of Labour leader Red Ed Miliband. Labour supporters, please note:

Up until yesterday I had thought Ed Miliband was a weak leader. I doubted, and still doubt, he has what it takes to make it to Downing Street. But I also thought that despite his numerous flaws, Miliband was basically an honorable man who was struggling to align his natural liberal instincts with the new conservatism that is the by-product of the age of austerity.

His conduct over the past week shows that’s simply not the case

David Cameron believed Labour would fall in line because Ed Miliband kept telling him they would. Yesterday, there was lots of debate about who had said what to whom in what meeting or what phone conversation.

But these facts are indisputable. Ed Miliband said that if he was to back the Government, David Cameron would have to publish the legal advice upon which the case for war rested. David Cameron agreed, and did so.

Ed Miliband then said a solid case needed to be presented demonstrating the Assad regime’s culpability for the chemical attacks. David Cameron agreed, and published the JIC analysis which concluded “there are no plausible alternative scenarios to regime responsibility”.

Ed Miliband then said the Government would have to exhaust the UN route before any recourse to military action. David Cameron agreed, and confirmed he would be submitting a motion to the P5 to that effect.

Ed Miliband said he would need to await the UN weapons inspectors report. David Cameron agreed.

Finally, and crucially, Ed Miliband said there would have to be not one, but two House of Commons votes before military action could be authorised. Once again David Cameron agreed.

And then, having sought – and received – all these assurances from the Prime Minister, Ed Miliband went ahead and voted against the Government anyway.

In closing, Tim Stanley concludes — and I couldn’t agree more:

Tonight Parliament injected reason into a debate about war and reason has prevailed. I wish – wish – this could have happened back in 2003, perhaps saving thousands of British and Iraqi lives. But it’s comforting to know that this time sense has prevailed. The mother of Parliaments has recovered her authority.

Personally, Qatar and the other Middle Eastern nations should sort this out. Instead, they spend their money buying up Western Europe, particularly Qatar. It’s a pretty sweet situation for them for the West to fight their region’s battles. That gives them the financial leverage to buy our football teams and hotel chains as well as inject money into our education* and inner-city programmes**. No longer, I hope.


* Before school let out this summer, one of our local primary schools had a multi-cultural day in which every student received a Qatar-financed tee-shirt. The country’s name was clearly visible.

** Marianne had a lengthy feature a few months on Qatar’s injecting money into poor French suburbs then telling the residents that France had no use for them. Shameful.