Ed Miliband has now confirmed that he will table a Labour amendment to the government’s motion on Syria, demanding that the Prime Minister return to the Commons once the UN weapons inspectors have reported, thereby delaying the main vote on intervention. And Labour will vote against the government’s motion.
Whether you think this is a wise move from Miliband depends partly on whether you think he’s as worried as some in the Conservative party are about the case for intervention, the lack of evidence and the legality of it, or whether you suspect that this is more about the problems supporting intervention outright would have caused a party still haunted by Iraq, and the lack of public support for military action.
Either way, this makes things interesting, not least because the government hasn’t published its own motion on Syria yet. But Labour’s move means David Cameron will need to rely on his backbenchers when many of his backbenchers aren’t sure whether they want to be relied on and might instead vote against the government.
The Tory whips set to work today, calling round backbenchers to find out their thinking on tomorrow’s Syria vote. I’m told this has been a ‘low key’ operation up to this point, partly because without a motion, it’s rather difficult for many wavering MPs to make up their mind. Many are at pains to point out in public that they want to hear from their constituents, and will make up their minds once they have heard from the Prime Minister in tomorrow’s debate. I also hear that the Prime Minister has been speaking to some colleagues about why he believes intervention is necessary.
That this is a leadership issue for Cameron is now clear, thanks to David Davis’ announcement that he is minded to vote against the motion too. And Adam Afriyie, who clearly still fancies a shot, has written a post for this blog in which he says ‘I cannot lead our country into conflict on the basis of what we know today’, which sounds rather as though he’s thinking as much about the leadership as he is about the issue of intervention.
Some, of course, are already reasonably confident that they will vote against the government. Andrew Bridgen is very anxious about the evidence that it really was Assad behind last week’s chemical attack. He tells Coffee House:
‘I have been baffled for some time as to the reason for Assad to have taken the action that he’s suggested to have taken. If Assad is behind this attack he has just gassed the parents and children of his conscripted troops. There is a chance that this could have been an accident, and unless I see evidence to the contrary, I am minded to vote against tomorrow’s motion.’
But for every Andrew Bingham, it seems there are 10 backbenchers who really cannot make up their minds yet. Chances are that now Labour has declared it won’t back the government, that low-key whipping operation will go into overdrive.Tags: Syria, UK politics