New Forest East


As far as Tories in the Commons are concerned, last Thursday's vote has become a non-event

By Simon Hoggart

Guardian – 2 September 2013

The fact that if David Cameron, instead of recalling parliament in a mad panic last week, had waited for the UN report, or for President Obama to make up his own mind, he might have won the vote on Syria, was not mentioned. At least not by the government. Like doctors, ministers prefer to bury their mistakes.

Tory MPs, no doubt mindful of the humiliation and embarrassment already heaped upon their leader, wanted to ask instead about the replacement Trident nuclear missile system. This involves building four new submarines, for what the defence secretary, Philip Hammond, called "continuous at-sea deterrence". Certainly the government's deterrence policy appears to be continuously at sea, as last Thursday's vote showed. But I am sure that is not what he meant.

Backbenchers wanted the whole flotilla to be ordered and signed for before the Liberal Democrats could stop them. (They are terrified of another five-year coalition, and already suspect that it's coming.) The Lib Dems were responsible for the Trident Alternative Review, which has concluded that there is no alternative to Trident. (Though it is clear that many Tories would happily shove certain Lib Dem MPs into the launch tubes and lob them in the general direction of Syria, or some other unsatisfactory state.)

Julian Lewis, a Tory whose failure to mate with his Lib Dem colleagues could teach zoo pandas a few lessons, claimed that delays caused by the review had cost the taxpayer some £1.4bn. In spite of that, only two or at most three Lib Dem MPs had even been in the chamber to hear questions on the topic!

This is a fair point. Many Lib Dems are interested in defence in principle rather than in practice ...