Vote on Syria: What it means for PM Cameron

Especially from the perspective of  the domestic politics how badly is PM David Cameron hit after he lost the vote on Syria, any real impact on his leadership? Read few comments.

Peter Snowdon, Researcher, The Politics Show at BBC News, Co-Author (with Anthony Sheldon) of the book The Conservative Party: An Illustrated History

The defeat was humiliating for David Cameron, not least because he recalled Parliament to give support to his position. He was too far ahead of his party and public opinion. In the short term he will be diminished by the result and the voices of critics within his party may well grow louder. However, it is too early to say how this will affect his political authority in the long term. It partly depends on how he seeks to influence American policy in the Middle East from here on in. As for British public opinion, either people will respect him for respecting the will of Parliament despite making his case for British military action in Syria, or more dangerously for his leadership, they will perceive this as a defining moment of political weakness. Time will tell.

Nicholas Randall, Senior Lecturer and Head of Politics, School of Geography, Politics and Sociology University of Newcastle

Last night’s vote in the House of Commons is unprecedented in post-war British politics. No other post-war British prime minister has lost a vote on military action. Cameron’s defeat is the product of several factors. Firstly, it is in part a legacy of the controversies surrounding British participation in the Iraq War. Members of Parliament (and the British public) are now wary of military intervention justified on the basis of intelligence and seek greater clarity of the military and political objectives of action. Cameron was unable to convince parliamentarians on these issues. Secondly, Cameron committed tactical mistakes in recalling Parliament and in framing the vote in the way he did and, according to some accounts, in ignoring the advice of the Whips. Thirdly, the defeat is further evidence of a substantial group on the Conservative backbenches who have been willing to defy their leadership on a variety of issues (Europe, House of Lords reform etc) and now over military intervention in Syria. It is difficult to see how this grouping can be reconciled to Cameron’s leadership. At best, Cameron will need to manage his parliamentary party with considerably greater skill if he is to avoid further humiliation at their hands in the future. The defeat certainly weakens Cameron at a moment when events had been going his way (signs of economic recovery, Ed Miliband encountering criticism from within Labour ranks). This momentum is now lost and Cameron now appears a much weaker figure than he did 24 hours ago.

Bill Jones,Adjunct Professor of  Politics,  Liverpool Hope University

Yes, it’s quite a blow. It shows he was not fully aware of feeling within his own party, let alone the nation as a whole. Opinion polls suggested yesterday that only 11% of UK citizens fvoured military intervention in Syria. The defeat means he appears to have damaged the valued close ‘special’ relationship with the USA. It also gives some buoyancy to Ed Miliband, the Labour leader who appears to have taken the line most closely reflecting the national mood.

But will it affect Cameron’s ability to continue as prime minister? I suspect that, as long as other setbacks don’t occur, within a few weeks he won’t be much affected.

Robin Pettit, Senior Lecturer, School of Economics, History and Politics, Kingston University

This is clearly very serious for Cameron. It is bad for two reasons. First in that it yet again shows that he cannot control his own party, even on a hugely important foreign policy issues such as Syria and the use of military force. It is bad indeed if a Prime Minister needs the support of the opposition to make foreign policy (support the Labour Party as not willing to give on this occasion). It has been known for a long time that many conservative MPs do not like Cameron, but over the summer he seemed to have mended a lot of bridges with his party. That now seems to have been shot to pieces.

The second reason this is bad is that it appears the Conservative leadership did not see this defeat coming. It is one thing not to be in control of your own MPs, it is quite another scale of trouble to not even know that you are not in control. It adds to the impression that Cameron and his people are out of touch with what is going on in his own party.

This is clearly not good for Cameron’s leadership. He will clearly not resign any time soon. I think the only thing that would make Cameron resign as leader is defeat in a general election. I also doubt there will be a serious challenge to his leadership. The next election looks very difficult for the Conservatives and I suspect that the MANY leading conservatives who want t replace him would rather do so after the next election. Let Cameron do the hard work leading up to the election and move against him afterwards.

However, this is embarrassing for Cameron in his own party, in the country, and on the international stage. Cameron goes out of this a weakened party leader and a weakened Prime Minister.

Mark Shephard, Senior Lecturer, Department of Government, University of Strathclyde

I don’t think it will derail Cameron in the short-term but it is a blow that could be a piece in a larger jig-saw of losses and u-turns. All leaders tend to have a shelf life as their mistakes and enemies made always ratchet upward. However, one thing to remember about parliamentary victories is that they are temporary for 2 reasons. First, history shows us that if the government really wants something it will come back at a later date and get it, or closer to it, for example, there have been numerous votes on the number of days of detention without charge for terrorist suspects and each time the number of days has crept towards initial rejected targets. Second, subsequent events may lead to different votes and outcomes in parliament. So it is too early to say it is over yet.

There are 2 ways in which it might actually be a relief for Cameron. First, parliament has taken the decision out of his hands and parliament’s power in this was a legacy of Blair’s actions on Iraq, not Cameron’s. Second, there are all the concerns of getting involved (all of the associated costs we know about from recent experiences) and on what the consequences of involvement might be and the degree of control over any impacts and side effects?

Finally, we are always moaning that our politicians never listen and change their actions. For now, he has listened to parliament and we are doing things differently. This might actually go down well with the public.


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