When will today’s politicians be able to stop wrestling with Tony Blair’s ghost? Not for a while it seems – partly because they don’t want to. George Osborne decided to use the Kind of Spin as a means of spinning last night’s terrible defeat for the Coalition government on Syria when he appeared on the Today programme. As well as referring to the shadow Blair and Iraq cast over the debate, yesterday, the Chancellor made clear that the Prime Minister had tried to shake off that shadow by conducting things ‘in a different approach’. he said:
‘The shadow of Iraq pervaded the whole debate yesterday both on the media and in Parliament and at times MPs on both sides of the argument actually by mistake used Saddam Hussein’s name instead of Assad’s name. So, of course, and you know, I was an MP at the time of the Iraq war and have had most of my political life under the shadow of the way that debate was conducted.
‘What we were trying to do yesterday, what David Cameron was trying to do was try to conduct things in a different approach, actually go to Parliament, be open about trying to seek consensus and the fact we haven’t achieved a consensus is something we fully recognise. We’re not trying to make a fetish of division, as perhaps a previous Prime Minister did, we’re trying to say ‘look we understand, we get it, we understand the country is not with us, we respect that and as a result Britain is not going to be involved in any military action.’
Osborne’s tone was remarkably calm and conciliatory, given how hot tempers were after the vote last night. And his point about the leadership listening, rather than trying to steamroller over, Parliament is a good one. But perhaps it would have a little more force had the rebellion last night not been partly down to disorganisation on the leadership’s point of view when it came to squaring the issue with backbenchers. It’s all very well to say you’ll listen to Parliament now, but there’s a very clear sense on the backbenches that the Prime Minister and his colleagues would have done well to listen to them weeks ago.