This Almanac started the week discussing Miliband. And it quoted Harold MacMillan saying how “events” can disturb the best of plans. What happened in Parliament yesterday dramatically underlines the point.
David Cameron summoned back Parliament to debate the crisis in Syria. It was his judgment that the country should take military action to punish the Syrian government for what appeared to be a chemical attack on its own civilians.
Yesterday the Commons rejected the Prime Minister’s judgment. Parliament did the job its suppose to do, the legislature held the executive to account.
The government were poised to take part in an adventure the outcome of which was uncertain and might have made a bad situation a whole lot worse.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation there is little doubt that the big loser is David Cameron. One of the major planks of his foreign policy has been shot to ribbons.
He came back from Cornwall fully expecting a recalled House of Commons to give him his way for a US-UK military attack on Syria. He miscalculated the response of the country, Labour and above all members of his own party.
The recent history of our involvement in the politics of the middle east have made the nation extremely cautious of any further involvement in the region, and rightly so. It’s not a defeat on the scale of Suez which led to Eden’s resignation, but it certainly will weaken Cameron as prime minister both at home and abroad.
It’s a reminder to the country and members of his own party, that his writ is limited. Cameron hasn’t got a majority and yesterday reminded everyone of the fact. But he hasn’t even got control of his own party.
Suddenly after a summer of questions being asked about the Labour leader the roles have been reversed it’s Cameron that is now seen as wanting. Never has it been so true that a week is a long time in politics.
The search for an international diplomatic approach based on international law is what Miliband wants for Britain. On this he has shown a better understanding of the nation’s will than the prime minister. The case for a measured approach to Syria goes with the grain of what the voter wants.
Voters are tired of politicians leading the country into foreign adventures. The country is no longer an imperial power. People want a foreign policy that recognizes this. If yesterday’s historic vote says goodbye to a foreign policy based on the illusions of a former grandeur, the country will be in a better place.