Alex Massie Alex Massie

On Syria, parliament has voted to have no policy at all.

A muddle and a cock-up. For all the talk of parliament reasserting itself, last night’s vote on Syria showed a parliament that voted, twice, to oppose actions it actually supports. David Cameron has been humiliated but this was hardly a banner day for Ed Miliband either.

The House of Commons has, for now, cut off its nose to spite its face. Perhaps surgery can repair the damage. Perhaps it can’t. Because the longer and more deeply one contemplates yesterday’s events the more evident it seems that there were no winners.

The government motion was defeated. So was Labour’s amendment. Since these motions were, in essence and in most practical respects, identical one wonders what on earth has happened. Put together more than 450 MPs supported either the government motion or Labour’s amendment.

Neither motion authorised immediate military action. Neither motion handed the government a “blank cheque”. Both motions acknowledged more time, more evidence, more discussion would be needed before any final decision was taken. And both were defeated. Work that out if you can.

Parliament has voted to shut down debate even though a clear majority of MPs favour more debate. Heckuva job, chaps. For now, at least, Britain has opted out of any punitive strike on Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Few people emerge from this debacle with their credit enhanced.

The Prime Minister’s mismanagement of his party is as well-documented as it is unfortunate. Worse, however, was its handling of the debate itself. I have no idea why Nick Clegg – of all people – was permitted to make the government’s closing statement rather than William Hague.

But at least we know what David Cameron believes.

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