Will there be a second vote on Syria? As you might expect, that question dominated today’s lobby briefing with the Prime Minister’s official spokesman. He told journalists that ‘there has been no change’ in the Prime Minister’s view since Thursday’s vote and that ‘parliament has spoken: that’s why the government has absolutely no plans to go back to Parliament’.
As I said this morning, the only way in which you’d be at all safe putting money on another vote on this matter would be if Ed Miliband came back to Cameron and pledged his support. And on this, Labour is being rather less equivocal than the government. Chuka Umunna has appeared on BBC News in the past hour to say:
‘If the Prime Minister wants to change his position and come forward with new proposals and wants to have another debate in Parliament that is a matter for him. We were very clear last week, let’s be absolutely clear about our position; we were being asked to agree to military action in principle without being properly furnished with the evidence on Thursday last week.’
‘We are not in Government, we aren’t the ones who decide whether or not to send our forces into theatre and into action, that is properly an issue for the Prime Minister to instigate and to come forward with. If he were to choose to change his position, come back to Parliament and seek a new mandate to take action then as a responsible opposition of course we would consider that and we would be applying exactly the same criteria as we set out last week before deciding whether to act.’
Both sides are arguing that their position on Syria after last week’s vote is clear. But it isn’t really. Because in each response, there is an intake of breath and a hedging of words that suggests one side could yield if the other did. But for the time being, ‘absolutely no plans’ means that there won’t be a second vote, unless something changes, in the same way as someone might start their day with absolutely no plans to visit a hospital, changing them only when they’re run over by a bus. At no point did the spokesman say the government would not allow a second vote. But there are currently ‘absolutely no plans’.
This is all hypothetical. The stakes for both sides of changing their current stances are high. But then so are the stakes in this debate: it is about Syria, after all. And of course, the real block to this hypothetical situation becoming real is whether Ed Miliband really wants his party to revisit the question of whether it believes in intervention or not.Tags: Syria, UK politics