Cameron's humbling defeat on Syria: 'he brought it on himself'
What the top commentators are saying after 30 Tory MPs voted with Labour to halt Syria intervention
DAVID CAMERON'S defeat in the Commons last night, which effectively stops Britain taking part in any western intervention in Syria, marks the first time since the 1956 Suez crisis that an opposition has failed to support government plans for military deployment. With 30 of his own backbenchers taking Labour's side, how damaging is the defeat for the Prime Minister? Here's what six leading commentators are saying this morning:
Max Hastings in the Daily Mail: It is a "savage and damaging setback" for Cameron, says Hastings, but the PM brought it on himself. His attempt to play statesman on the world stage has created a political shambles which culminated in a humiliating defeat. The Prime Minister sounded desperate as he sought to justify military action, and Hastings doubts that more than a handful of MPs believed Cameron's repeated claim that chemical weapons were the only matter at stake. "The Prime Minister has made a colossal fool of himself, on a matter of the utmost gravity – that of war and peace."
Kevin Maguire in the Daily Mirror: It was a wonderful night for democracy, international law, the British people and Ed Miliband, says Maguire, but humbling and catastrophic for Cameron. "Talk about a PM misjudging the political and public mood." Cameron was unable to explain convincingly how Britain entering the war would benefit Syrians or Britain – and may have blown up his premiership by "being a hawk when people want a dove". Arrogance destroyed the PM's judgment, says Maguire. "The Grand Old Duke of Downing Street marched them up to the top of the hill then marched them down again before a mutiny overthrew his command. Incredible."
Fraser Nelson in the Daily Telegraph: David Cameron has failed the test of trust and paid the price, says Nelson. To be forced to dilute the motion at the last minute was bad enough, but to suffer a rebellion on this magnitude is "devastating". The PM's gamble on recalling Parliament has ended in "what is perhaps the biggest humiliation of his premiership", says Nelson. It represents not just an extraordinary defeat, but a catastrophic political misjudgment. "He put his credibility on the line, and lost. It is a defeat from which he will take some time to recover."
Polly Toynbee in The Guardian: From Number 10 came effing and blinding at Ed Miliband, calling him, as reported in the Times, a "f****** c*** and a copper-bottomed s***". But it wasn't Labour, says Toynbee, it was the country that had changed while Cameron wasn't looking. The PM should be effing and blinding instead at his own party, for it's they who have changed without him noticing. "With more than 70 MPs threatening to rebel, he lost control while his top ministers, Theresa May and Philip Hammond, allowed their disquiet to be reported, delivering an 'et tu, Brute' stab in his front."
Nick Robinson, BBC political editor: David Cameron will cut a "diminished figure" on the international stage after losing control of his own foreign and defence policy, says Robinson. While at home the internal divides in the Conservative party he has worked tirelessly to resolve are back on public display. "A defeat in Parliament on the matters of peace and war is without precedent" says Robinson, concluding that the consequences of this vote will be felt for a very long time to come.
John Rentoul in The Independent: The Commons defeat certainly shows evidence of poor judgment on Cameron's part, but the Prime Minister will do well to ignore the "wall-to-wall commentary" and "posh journalism" claiming that his authority is in tatters. Ordinary people will not care about the "humiliation" of losing a vote in the House of Commons, says Rentoul. All they will be thinking is "thank goodness we haven't gone to war". ·