If Cameron is ousted as PM, it will be by his own hand
By Norman TebbitPoliticsLast updated: August 30th, 2013
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I said that I hoped that I would find that I could support the Government on Syria. Sadly I could not. Nor was I alone in that. Not only was the Prime Minister defeated in the Commons, but had there been a motion on which Peers could have voted he would have been overwhelmingly defeated in The Lords. There the Government suffered the utter humiliation of having as its leading supporter Lord Ashdown whose bombastic outburst was embarrassing rather than persuasive.
One after another men and women of great experience on all sides drew on their experience to conclude that the case for armed intervention had simply not been made. It was not just politicians like former Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd, or Labour's Defence Minister Lord Reid, but former First Sea Lord Admiral West, the former Chief of Staff General Dannatt, and cross-bencher Lord Wright the former head of the Foreign Office who expressed the view that the Government's proposed intervention had simply not been thought through. Indeed hardly a soul made the opposite case.
It was not so much a refusal to countenance armed intervention at any time or any price, although some did seem to hold that view, but the widespread conviction that the Government had not asked, let alone answered the vital questions. What if the use of chemical weapons continued after a military strike; was the strike, whether intended or not, likely to weaken the Assad government and strengthen the rebels; how would it be interpreted by other Middle Eastern governments, or in Moscow or Beijing; would it further imperil Christian minorities in Syria or elsewhere?
Naturally there were those who declared the proposed action to be illegal in the sense that it was contrary to international law. More tellingly the former Labour Law Officer Lord Goldsmith observed that was only half the question, declaring that we had also to be convinced that it would be right and effective.
Never, in my experience, had there been more of us finding deep agreement with other peers with whom we had almost always disagreed in the past.
I think we were almost all surprised as our debate in the Lords was coming to an end that the Commons had defeated the Government. Sadly, I think that was less a vote specifically against any possible military intervention in Syria as an expression of a lack of confidence in the ability or willingness of the Government to think through the consequences of its policies over a far wider front that Syria. That has long been my prime concern about this Government and it now seems to have become more widely shared.
Indeed I begin to think that if Mr Cameron is ousted from No. 10, it will not be by Mr Miliband or Mr Farage, but by his own hand.
I hope my readers will forgive me for not responding to the many comments which have been made this week, but so many have been overtaken by events that I do not think it sensible to do so.
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