Discussion of military action brings a different atmosphere to the chamber of the House of Commons: quieter, less disputatious, more consensual. In opening the debate, the Prime Minister took a huge number of interventions including a large number from those MPs who are most sceptical of this intervention. All were heard respectfully and answered respectfully.
Cameron’s desire to find consensus was part of his broader message that this is ‘not another Iraq.’ He stressed that the action in Libya was necessary, legal and right and that any kind of occupying force is ruled out. He argued that the intervention had been ‘in the nick of time’ to prevent a massacre in Benghazi. In his peroration, Cameron argued that the country should be proud of this action because it is in line with Britain’s values as well as its interests and because now ‘the people of Libya have a much better chance of determining their own future.’
On the two questions of the day, whether the coalition is pursuing regime change and whether Gaddafi is a target, Cameron had little news. ‘I think Libya needs to get rid of Gaddafi,’ Cameron declared, but he emphasised that this remains a matter for the Libyan people. As for whether or not Gaddafi is a target, Cameron simply said that he was ‘not giving a running commentrary on targeting’, which is what the government’s line should have been from the beginning.