Now that David Cameron has returned from his Portuguese fish-shopping exploits, the game of recall tennis that Westminster has been playing for the past few days has stepped up a few notches. Now it’s not just Philip Hammond, Michael Fallon and other Cabinet members leaving COBR meetings who can be asked whether or not they think Parliament should return from recess to debate the situation in Iraq, but the Prime Minister himself. It’s running like this: another Tory MP writes to the Prime Minister to say there should be a recall, or a senior party figure from the Lib Dems or Labour says there should be one. The ball lands in the government court, and the government bats it back out again, saying, as David Cameron did this afternoon, that there is no need for a recall because ‘this is a humanitarian operation that Britain is involved in’.
But Cameron sent the ball back into the opposite court with enough force that those who do want a recall can send it right back to him. He added that ‘of course I always keep this issue under review and were things to change then obviously that is something that could be done’. Ming Campbell has already repeated his call for a recall, and the growing number of Tory MPs who want one still think that there is a very good chance of the rally ending in the government court and Parliament returning early.
MPs are naturally agitated about the dreadful international situation. But perhaps there’s also something else that’s driving them: a fear of Parliament being irrelevant and remote. It’s unfair to say that this is along the same lines as politicians involving themselves in news stories just to seem relevant, Gordon Brown and Susan Boyle-style. But when one of the main arguments against a recall seems to be that it wouldn’t make any difference, you can understand why those who still have faith in the power of politics are a little unsettled.
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