Yesterday Conservative MPs queued up in Parliament to question or oppose the Coalition government’s strategy towards Syria. The day ended with the good news that the government accepts the will of Parliament and the view of the British people, that we should not intervene militarily in the conflict.
It all began with the Conservative MPs who opposed the idea of arming the rebels. We said that Parliament had to be convened and consulted before any change of policy towards Syria when it was suggested the government might start to arm the rebels once the summer recess started. The government announced yesterday that it now agrees we should not arm the rebels and should not seek to intervene in the Syrian civil war, save for the question of how to respond to the use of chemical weapons. It ended when Mr Miliband made clear that Labour would vote against early military action even on the chemical weapons matter.
Once Labour’s support for action was removed when Mr Miliband changed his mind, the government drafted a motion which made it clear a further vote would be needed before any UK military involvement could be undertaken. As the debate and soundings continued yesterday, it became obvious that an attempt next week to push for such a vote after the UN Inspectors have reported was likely to lead to a substantial defeat. As it turned out the government did not even have a majority for its general motion condemning the use of chemical weapons, proposing further diplomatic efforts at the UN and leaving open other options.
I will post my speech in the Commons later today.