Today's debate and vote on airstrikes in Syria has already descended into name calling. At last night’s meeting of Conservative MPs, David Cameron reportedly urged his party to vote for the airstrikes because:
‘You should not be walking through the lobbies with Jeremy Corbyn and a bunch of terrorist sympathisers’
It’s a line that echoes the Tories' prior attacks on Corbyn as a threat to Britain’s national security, as well as and the Prime Minister’s accusation in his conference speech this year that the Labour leader ‘hates’ Britain.
On a day which was set to be about ideas and arguments, and not personalities, Cameron's remarks have provided ammunition for Corbyn and his New Politics. Team Corbyn has described the remark as a ‘contemptible and desperate slur which demeans his office’:
‘He clearly realises he has failed to make a convincing case for military action in Syria and opinion is shifting away from him'.
Although this is not exactly true — the government is still expected to win today's debate — Cameron will be kicking himself this morning. Until now, he has been assiduously respectful towards Parliament and followed Commons procedure carefully when putting across his argument for airstrikes in Syria.
He has been fixated on keeping Parliament happy because No.10 believes that he will lose votes if he tries to undermine procedure. With this attack leaking in the press, attention has shifted away from the arguments of the airstrikes and that somewhat undermines the Prime Minister's principled position.