Last night one of the most astonishing things I’ve ever seen happened, an incumbent Prime Minister was defeated on an issue that looked almost certain to get through, if only by the skin of it’s teeth, and despite public opinion being against the idea. What makes it extraordinary is that it wasn’t the opposition who helped defeat him it was his own party. The last time something like this happened was probably Robert Peel, who was defeated by a very minor issue owing to party resentment over the successful repeal of the corn laws. I’m trying to think of a Prime Minister who has been defeated in such a devastating way since but the only one who comes close is Margaret Thatcher, that wasn’t a parliamentary defeat however, only a party revolt (Some say she was stabbed in the back more times than Caesar.). I think Cameron is now in a position very similar to both Peel and Thatcher however. Not only has he suffered a major parliamentary defeat but he has also lost control of his own party and I think, come the party conference season we’ll start to see him being challenged for the party. I can’t see any way how he could survive this in the long term.
But David Cameron’s possible downfall isn’t the main thing here, much as I’d like to discuss that. No… The main thing is what happens now to Britain’s place on the international stage? If you aren’t aware, the whole debate last night was over whether Britain should intervene militarily in Syria and the answer came back as a resounding ‘NO.’ That ‘No’ has quite a consequence as it means that whatever happens, whether the UN finds evidence of chemical weapons or if Obama decides he’s going to take America in there, Britain will not be involved. We have been ruled out of the equation, at least from a military stand point. And this has meant that some politicians (Michael Howard, Paddy Ashdown etc.) have been bewailing that Britain’s relationship with the rest of the world is finished and we’re all doomed and by not going to war we’re appeasing Assad. But they’re very wrong for a number of substantial reasons: