Cameron rocket takes out Jesse Norman as retribution begins
Syrians now risk Armageddon, says PM, yet he rules out a fresh Commons vote on military intervention
DAVID CAMERON sacked one of his Downing Street policy advisers today as a signal that there could be further retribution against the Tory rebels who helped defeat the government last week on military intervention in Syria.
Jesse Norman, who abstained in the vote, is a rising star among Tory MPs and had been put on the Number Ten policy board earlier this year as a way of placating those backbenchers disgruntled at the mishandling of a series of measures, including the reform of the House of Lords.
His sacking puts the heat on ministers who failed to support Cameron on his strategy for Syria, including Justine Greening, Secretary of State for International Development, and Mark Simmonds, Minister for Africa, who both said they missed the vote because they were in a private room in the Commons discussing aid to Rwanda and never heard the division bell.
BBC political editor Nick Robinson said on the Daily Politics show: "Once the reshuffle comes, there will be fall-out." He added: "She [Greening] is desperately going round saying she didn't hear the bell." Angela Eagle, a shadow Labour minister, said on the same show that the House authorities had tested the bell, and it was working.
Norman was sacked a few minutes before Cameron took a potentially difficult session of Prime Minister's Questions. But it was Labour leader Ed Miliband who appeared to have more doubts about his role in blocking UK military action against Syria.
As both Cameron and the Labour leader tiptoed around last week's vote, Cameron took Miliband to task, saying: "My only regret of last week is that I didn't think it was necessary to divide the House - but you take the position that it was."
Cameron said the people of Syria could be subjected to 'Armageddon' by the Assad regime, unless a firm stand was taken on its use of chemical weapons. But he finally killed the growing speculation regarding a fresh vote on military action, telling MPs: "Last week the House of Commons voted. Clearly I respect that vote. I won't be bringing back plans for British participation in military action."
His words were so unequivocal that they leave surprisingly little room for the Prime Minister to take Britain into war, even if the circumstances change - for example, if US strikes against the Assad regime spark a wider conflict.
Cameron flatly contradicted his Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, who on Monday had appeared to leave the door open to the government seeking a fresh mandate if the circumstances "change very significantly". Cameron said the UK "can't be part and won't be part" of any military strikes against Syria. ·