I am getting rather brassed of. The Tories and LibDems are still intent on blaming Ed Miliband for their failure to get a majority last Thursday for the Government's first step vote over a Syrian intervention.
As far as I can tell Miliband's attitude towards the Syrian question was based on what he saw as one of the lessons of Iraq. That was not to allow the United Nations to complete their work. It seems this was his criticism of the government's proposed motion intended to put before the Commons on last Thursday. It is now clear that Cameron, in a phone call with Obama, had already done a Tony Blair and promised to join any US military action-to engage shoulder to shoulder'.
At that time it was obvious the UN inspectors' task was going to take a couple of weeks to complete, a time scale the US simply could not accept. They were briefing that their action was contemplated to occur no later than the first few days in September. No one listening to John Kerry before last weekend could have been in any doubt that action was imminent.
So there we have Cameron already in hock to the US, having agreed to support its launching a 'punitive' strike well before the UN inspectors could have even opened and bar coded the samples brought from Damascus. And Ed Miliband having tried and failed to persuade to Cameron and presumably Nick Clegg, make certain that their second step-another vote could not be debated until the inspectors had completed their work and reported to the Security Council. Wisely, he wanted to avoid that debate taking place in the febrile atmosphere of the US about to take military action in Syria. A lighted match a few centimeters away from the blue touch paper.
The goverment's tactics to get their vote was truly incompetent. Calling MPs back from their holidays; humming and haar-ing about the the wording of their motion; presenting a truly hopeless case for intervention. And though Cameron's opening speech was pretty good,if they hoped the increasing number of waverers would be pursuaded, Nick Clegg's closing speech was truly dreadful. As a result, 30 Tories and 9 LibDems failed to support the government on a matter of peace and war since, according to Andrew Rawnsley,
Lord Aberdeen lost a vote over the conduct of the Crimean war. Or since Lord Palmerston was censured over the Don Pacifico affair. Or since Lord North couldn't carry parliament during the American war of independence.
It was a completely uneccessary and self inflicted defeat.
Update 12.00 noon 3rd September.
On the Today programme this morning Justin Webb interviewed General Jack Keane, a former vice chief of staff of the US Army. General Keane claims to have spoken to two noted Republican hawks, both having, in the past, supported military action by the United States to overthrow the Assad regime. Both Senators, John McCain and Lindsey Graham report to Keane that they have spoken to President Obama.
"Obama is reported to have said that he intends a much more significant involvment in Syria than to deter him from using chemical weapons against the opposition. "What he has told the two senators is that he also intends to assist the opposition forces, so he is going to degrade Assad's military capacity and he is going to assist and upgrade the opposition forces with training assistance."
This is clearly miles away from what most of the MPs and certainly Ed Miliband believed when the debate took place last Thursday.
The questions for Cameron today are these.
Was Cameron told that Obama intended to go beyond detering Assad from using chemical weapons? Was he told he intended to 'degrade Assad's military capacity and assist and upgrade opposition forces...?
If Cameron was not told and Keane is relaying correctly McCain and Graham's conversation with Obama, then Cameron has been decieved. If he was told, then Parliament has been decieved. Either way, its an upleasant spot for our Prime Minister to occupy.