PM rules out fresh vote on Syria despite political mood swing
Members of all three main parties believe that 'compelling new evidence' requires a fresh vote – but PM is adamant it won't happen
BOTH Nick Clegg and and a spokesman for David Cameron have insisted today that there will be no fresh vote in the Commons on the issue of whether British troops should take part in military action against President Assad's regime in Syria.
The deputy PM said he could not "foresee any circumstances" under which MPs would be asked to vote again following the defeat of the government last Thursday.
Cameron's spokesman said: "Parliament has spoken. The government has absolutely no plans to go back to parliament. In response to the use of chemical weapons, the government made the case for a robust response. It put before the house the Joint Intelligence Committee paper.
"The government made its case and parliament expressed its view. Parliament has made clear its will that there be no British involvement in military action and we will respect that."
But senior Tories have continued to call for a fresh vote in the light of "compelling new evidence" that the Assad regime used sarin nerve agent in the attack on a suburb of Damascus which killed 1,429 Syrians.
The most recent call came from former Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell who told Radio 4's World at One programme: "I think it's very important in this rapidly moving situation that we don't rule anything out."
Referring to President Obama's surprise decision, announced on Saturday, to delay military any strike until Congress can vote on the issue next Monday, Mitchell went on: "It may be, after lengthy and careful consideration, Congress affirms its support for the president's plans and, in the light of that, our parliament may want to consider this matter further."
Mitchell is one of many senior Tories - and there are those from the other main parties who feel the same way - to have put pressure on Cameron to rethink his decision to treat last Thursday's vote as a definitive No to intervention.
London mayor Boris Johnson used his Monday column in the Daily Telegraph to say: "If there is new and better evidence that inculpates Assad, I see no reason why the government should not lay a new motion before Parliament, inviting British participation – and then it is Ed Miliband, not David Cameron, who will face embarrassment. "
Johnson added: "I predict that by the end of this episode it will be Labour that looks divided, and David Cameron who looks the statesman."
Daily Telegraph deputy editor Ben Brogan tweeted this morning that Boris was a "crazed optimist" - but he may have missed a little-noticed finding in a Survation poll in the Mail on Sunday which suggested a majority of Britons - 47 per cent of those polled - would be in favour of military action against Syria if there were further mass chemical attacks.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the Tory former Foreign Secretary, Lord Howard, the former Conservative leader, and Lord Ashdown, the former Lib Dem leader, all made calls yesterday for Parliament to vote again.
Sir Malcolm, chairman of the intelligence and security committee, said the situation has "moved on dramatically now" and that the evidence was "becoming more compelling every day".
He went on: "A lot of MPs, including Mr Miliband and his colleagues who voted against last Thursday, did so because they said it was premature. He [Miliband] and our Prime Minister ought to get together and say, if we can now agree the evidence is compelling, then Parliament ought to have the opportunity to debate the matter again."
Lord Howard said he hoped President Obama's address on Saturday would "give Parliament an opportunity to think again and to come to a different conclusion".
Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, claimed a political victory after last Thursday's defeat of Cameron, but some senior Labour MPs are alarmed that the vote could lead to "Little Englander" isolationism.
Former Labour culture secretary Ben Bradshaw said: "I would be very worried if this signals a retreat from Labour being an internationalist party willing to do difficult things to make the world a better place."
Jim Murphy, the Shadow Defence Secretary, is among those happy to have a rethink. He said if there "were to be really significant developments in Syria... then of course the Prime Minister has the right to bring that back to Parliament."
Like a drunk waking up with a heavy hangover, the mood among MPs returning to Westminster today from their summer break appeared to be one of "what have we done?" But Cameron and Clegg remain resolutely sober. ·