After the special relationship was found still breathing this afternoon, is there a chance UK involvement in Syria action might have life in it yet? If Congress does not debate and vote on action until 9 September, there is time for the UN weapons inspectors to report and the UN Security Council to vote. This assumes Congress does approve action (and Obama said he was confident he would get the support, hopefully based on better intelligence than that which led Cameron to be equally confident at the start of this week). But if all of those conditions are met, would the Labour party support action? If they would – and it would be foolish for Cameron to return to the Commons without absolute certainty of Miliband’s support – then the Commons could plausibly see another vote on whether the UK should be involved in the international response to the chemical attacks.
It is worth noting the wording of Ed Miliband’s point of order in the Commons on Thursday night once the defeat had been announced:
‘On a point of order, Mr Speaker. There having been no motion passed by this House tonight, will the Prime Minister confirm to the House that, given the will of the House that has been expressed tonight, he will not use the royal prerogative to order the UK to be part of military action before there has been another vote in the House of Commons?’
Cameron won’t return to Parliament unless he is sure of victory on this issue. But Miliband hasn’t ruled out another vote either: it was Cameron who said that while no motion had been passed, he understood that Parliament did not back action – which was a reasonable assumption based on the speeches that day, which were more about the principle of intervention than the motion itself. If there was another vote, Labour would have to be make the public declaration of its position on intervention that Miliband seems to fear so much.