David Cameron has lost the Commons vote for military action in Syria with a count of 285 to 272 – a mere 13 votes majority.
The motion was put forward after chemical weapon attacks, supposedly by the Syrian government, killed 1,429 people near Damascus last week.
British MPs voted to reject the government motion that set forward possible military intervention in Syria against the Assad regime. Despite Cameron watering down the motion amid Labour Party demands for more “compelling evidence” of President Bashar al-Assad’s guilt. This has dealt a huge blow to the PM and rules out any British aid to the US’ planned attacks on Syria.
Labour leader Ed Miliband stated that the House of Commons had spoken for the people of Britain and that they were attempting to learn from the mistakes of Iraq. Whilst Labour appear triumphant, Defence Secretary Stephen Hammond and Chancellor George Osborne both spoke of their disappointment with the decision, claiming that it would harm the UK’s relationship with the US and was a move towards isolationism.
Thirty Conservatives and nine Liberal Democrats voted against the government motion, which has now cast doubts on Cameron’s ability to remain strong on the international stage. His control over foreign and defence policy has been diminished and he will now struggle to speak and act with confidence on such issues.
William Hague has stated that there will be no new vote on the issue despite the fact that new evidence has arisen. It seems that they are standing by the decision of the Commons for better or for worse. It has not served to deter other countries; France stated that they would provide military support to any action taken against Syria. However, in a surprising move, President Obama has decided to seek Congressional approval for any US military action, meaning no steps will be taken until after September 9 when Congress reconvenes. This departs from the norm of US presidents declaring war and essentially railroading Congress, since there is little they can do after the declaration.
The decision by Parliament has had both its supporters and critics. Does this signal Britain turning its back on the world, as George Osborne stated, or merely a desire to avoid another disastrous Middle East entanglement?