David Cameron and his colleagues have made fairly carefully-worded pledges on whether or not Parliament should be consulted if the government starts planning for a military intervention in Syria. They could feasibly stick to the precise wording of those pledges this week without recalling MPs for a debate, but this will be a very difficult position to maintain as pressure is growing on all sides for a recall. Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander said this evening:
‘If, in reality, the Prime Minister is now considering military options involving UK personnel then of course I would expect him to seek a recall of Parliament and to come to the House of Commons and make his case in advance of a decision being made.’
It’s not just the opposition pushing for a debate, though. On Westminster Hour this evening, Andrew Bridgen, who co-ordinated the letter from Tory MPs to the Prime Minister demanding a vote on the issue in June, said ‘we need to recall Parliament immediately’ and that ‘it would be damaging for the Prime Minister not to listen to backbenchers’. The reason behind his impatience for a recall? Bridgen hinted that the case for intervention was yet to be made. He said ‘I want to hear what the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary have to say’.
I’ve just spoken to Douglas Carswell, who is unimpressed that while Cameron has spent the weekend speaking to foreign leaders about Syria, Parliament has yet to be consulted. He says:
‘In 2006 in opposition, David Cameron specifically promised political reform to ensure the Whitehall machine could not take us to war without Commons approval. Like so much else, it seems to have been forgotten. The Whitehall securocrats seem to have decided on military action, and the people’s elected representatives have been ignored. This is how our country is now run.’
The problem for the Prime Minister is that many of his MPs oppose intervention: a vote would be dangerous. But avoiding one could be equally dangerous for his own security as leader. At the very least, there will need to be communication between the party leadership and Conservative MPs about its plan for updating Parliament, and that communication will need to come quickly.Tags: Foreign Policy, Syria, UK politics