Last nights vote against intervention was a victory for Parliament who, for once, listened rather than heard and saw rather than looked. The lack of enthusiasm for catapulting us into conflict without a strong case being made to the country, without limitations and without a clear aim has been greeted with relief. Wisdom and maturity have prevailed.
The problem doesn't go away but there is a clear instruction to the government that having done exhaustive preparatory planning, they must then engage and explain. We're not going to war off the cuff again. We value our country and the lives of our servicemen somewhat higher than the price of post Prime Ministerial American lecture tours.
The clear loser is David Cameron. The Prime Minister has a reputation in Westminster for being idle. He is thought not to anticipate problems coming down the tracks, (partly through not reading briefs thoroughly). This leads to ill thought out solutions hurriedly thrown together. If he spent more time working hard and less time on the beach, (more holidays than most Prime Ministers in modern times), he might not be so disconnected from the prevailing sentiment of the country, Parliament and indeed his own party.
As my friend Stephen Lewis, (Chief Economist at Monument Securities), points out,
"Before Mr Miliband and a number of Tory MP's frustrated his plans, Cameron argued that any military action against Syria had to be ‘specific’. ‘This is not about getting involved in a Middle Eastern war,’ he said. Whatever the rights and wrongs of Mr Cameron’s stance, one thing is clear. It would not be for him alone to say whether the outcome would be war. That would partly depend also on the reaction of Syria and its allies to what they would see as NATO aggression. One could sympathise with Mr Cameron in the position in which he found himself. He knows that, to win general support for military action against the Syrian regime, he must at all costs avoid presenting it as the prelude to the kind of adventures Blair initiated in Afghanistan and Iraq. There is every reason to believe he is sincere in thinking that Syria could be attacked with no further consequences. Even so, it is disconcerting that he should contemplate action while taking for granted that war will not ensue. In this, he shares a mindset that has developed within the ruling elite in the developed world. It does not occur to members of this elite that their decisions might have results other than those they intend. Consequently, they make no adequate provision for contingencies."
That he has failed in his first big test creates a pretty big political problem for him. He is not without enemies within his party and many will now be less timid in articulating their concerns. It should be an interesting party season.
Markets meanwhile, are somewhat relieved that short term uncertainty is removed yet have still to even countenance longer term political change which may result from the events of this week.
Congratulations though, to all those MP's who had the moral courage to stand up for what they believed in.