Saturday, 31 August 2013

Cameron defeat: some reflections

The fall-out from the amazing vote on Thursday night continues apace. 

 “A couple of months ago, I was due to meet a British general for a routine chat when I received an embarrassed email from him, saying that all such meetings must now be approved by the Defence Secretary’s office. This had been refused.

I wrote first to Philip Hammond, and then to David Cameron, asking why they were seeking to kill the sort of private dialogue with the armed forces that I have had for more than 40 years.

Both the Prime Minister and Defence Secretary wrote back, defending their gagging decision. They said that there has been far too much military leaking to the media, and they are determined that this must stop.” Max Hastings, Daily Wail 30/8/13

Not the usual source of embarrassing revelations about our beloved leaders. Clearly one story the Guardian missed. Max had more to say:

“This sort of clumsy control-freakery derives in part, of course, from the fact that our leaders know that our professional soldiers are contemptuous of their antics on security policy generally, and Syria in particular.

But attempts to silence those who know something about strategy and warfare are bound to fail, and only emphasise the Government’s cack-handedness. In the House of Commons yesterday, Mr Cameron asserted again and again that the decision about military action in Syria is a ‘judgment issue’.

He was right, and the shortcomings of his own  judgment are now embarrassingly apparent. He has misread the strategic  arguments, the interests of the  Syrian people, the mood of Britain and now also of its Parliament.

The truth is that the Prime Minister has called the crisis of recent days wrong from the outset. Many of his own backbenchers could see that, and now the House as a whole has spoken – proving that it still has the power to trump the executive and speak for the people.

“But in my view there’s no doubt the Prime Minister has made a colossal fool of himself, on a matter of the utmost gravity – that of war and peace. Almost the worst part of the fiasco is that one day we shall need to deploy our shrunken armed forces against a real threat from a real foreign enemy.

And because our leaders have so often deceived us in the past, crying wolf amid their own hubristic  delusions and pretensions, the British people will not believe them.
That will indeed be a tragic day, and Mr Cameron has followed Blair in bringing it upon us.”

There is much in the press today about ‘heads must roll’ with several ministers being fingered for the sack. Among them are at least five ministers who did not vote - three stayed on holiday and two were in a closet together and ‘did not hear the division bell.’ Strange but true.

Malcolm Tucker would have gone into expletive overload. One minister threw his toys out of the pram:

"I watched the English Education Secretary Michael Gove shout, 'A disgrace, you're a disgrace' at a number of Conservative and Lib Dem rebels," Mr Robertson said.
"He had to be persuaded to calm down by a number of his colleagues.
"I retorted, 'It's called democracy', because that was what happened. We have finally learned the lessons from Iraq." Independent 30/8/13 

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