current affairs

Cameron and the politics of the Syrian crisis

Westminster is today in shock as Prime Minster David Cameron has lost the vote on military action against the Syrian government in retaliation of last week’s apparent chemical attack by the A

Westminster is today in shock as Prime Minster David Cameron has lost the vote on military action against the Syrian government in retaliation of last week’s apparent chemical attack by the Assad regime.

The PM had recalled parliament from its summer break and had expected to be backed by MPs in favour of a strike against the Syrian regime, however after a day’s debate in which Cameron furiously put his point to house telling MPs to ‘make a judgement’, the Conservative leader was defeated 285 votes to 272.

Inveitable that Britain would strike military targets

As the harrowing pictures of adults, children first emerged: whole families sprawled across the darkened pavements lying motionless gasping for air, it seemed inevitable that Britain would join the US and France in striking military targets however with the legacy of Iraq still vivid in the mind of the British public and evidently the people who represent them. This eventuality now seems impossible.

Labour leader Ed Miliband had slowed down the path that Cameron had initially wanted to take, calling for no decision to be made until a full investigation by UN weapons inspectors had been carried out and this move has seemingly had a huge effect, effectively questioning the PM’s authority over his own foreign policy.

However, it is expected when the breakdown of the votes is made public it will show that the defeat of the government’s proposals of military strikes was not defeated just by Labour MPs but also and most importantly by his own backbenchers.

Embarrassed and humiliated

Cameron and Deputy PM Nick Clegg will be left feeling embarrassed and humiliated after days of strong rhetoric and some may even suggest that this is a sign of a lack of confidence in their leadership. 

Shamefully, the main issue of this debate and vote threatens to be overshadowed by a game of British politics, led by the Labour Party. Miliband said shortly after the Commons vote that UK military action in Syria is “off the agenda” and criticised Mr Cameron’s “cavalier and reckless” leadership, and the most sceptical of political observers may accuse him of opposing direct and quick military action against Syria to gain domestic political points from both the public and his own party after a poor summer.  

Although it has to be noted that Miliband’s own amendment was also defeated in the house, however Cameron has clearly taken the biggest blow.

It seems inevitable that France will join America in some sort of military action against the Assad regime, which has also worried some observers that Britain will now be seen as weak and unable to maintain the status of a country that wants, along with the US, to police the world and a defender of the people.

What’s next?

It is very unlikely that military action will now be taken by Britain. The PM immediately after the vote confirmed this and he also assured Miliband that he would not use the Royal prerogative, that is to ignore Thursday’s vote and go onto to militarily intervene in Syria without the consent of MPs. Even if the UN presents substantial evidence, it is unlikely that Westminster will change its mind.

Meanwhile the US has effectively dismissed the vote of the House of Commons and has confirmed that President Obama ‘will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States’ while France is without doubt to follow the White House and Germany also seems to be onside.

Russia, a staunch ally of President Assad, has moved warship into the Mediterranean, following similar action of the US, although President Putin has given assurances that this to protect the interests of the Kremlin rather than threaten the US.

Overshadowed foreign policy

Back in Britain, for now Miliband is likely to feel a wave of popularity especially within his own party as Cameron will be left nursing his wounds over an issue he very much expected to win.

It is however unlikely that the PM’s position will be under threat but he will be angry at his own backbenchers for their refusal to back him over military intervention although the legacy of his foreign policy, arguably his best work to date since moving into 10 Downing Street, will now be overshadowed in the history books by this vote.

What do you think? What are the political repercussions for the Prime Minister? What is the next chapter on the debate of a solution in Syria? Have your say in the comments section below, on Facebook or on Twitter.