Donald Macintyre's Sketch: If Syria was on everyone’s mind, why was no one talking about it?
The Commons chamber was visited with a welcome onset of grown-upness on Iran
Donald Macintyre writes political sketches for The Independent, having been Jerusalem correspondent since 2004, covering Israel and the Occupied Territories, as well as travelling for the paper to Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Libya and Egypt. As Political Editor and then Chief Political Commentator, he previously covered the John Major and early Tony Blair era. He has written for the Daily Express, Sunday Times, Times and Sunday Telegraph, and Sunday Correspondent. He is the author of Mandelson and the Making of New Labour (2000).
Monday 17 June 2013
MPs proved again on Monday that just because a subject is dominating the news, it doesn’t mean they will ask questions about it. Here was Philip Hammond who, as Defence Secretary, would be responsible for arming Syrian rebel forces, if it happens. And first up with “topical questions” was John Baron, the Tory backbencher leading opposition to any such act. And Baron asked him a question about Army reservists.
In fairness, this was not as odd as it often is. For Baron probably judged that Hammond had refused to offer any new information on the lifting of the EU arms embargo in an answer to the Shadow Defence spokesman Jim Murphy.
David Cameron has repeatedly stonewalled when pressed to say how his pledge to ensure that any such weapons would not fall into the “wrong” rebel hands would actually be fulfilled. So Murphy tried a subtly different, tack. What “precedent” was there for a “vetting process”, to “ensure that weapons... don't fall into the possession of those whose aims we do not share?"
The question was “hypothetical”, Hammond insisted in wearisomely familiar language. The focus was on a Geneva conference but “we must leave all options on the table.” We were none the wiser.
The Commons chamber was then visited with a welcome onset of grown-upness on Iran, thanks to Jack Straw’s Urgent Question to William Hague on whether the election as Iranian President of Dr Hassan Rouhani might mean a fresh start in relations between Tehran and the West.
Straw said that when he had "many dealings" with Dr Rouhani as head of Iran's security he found him "courteous, engaged and straightforward". If this was name-dropping on a global scale, it was pretty pardonable since as Labour’s Foreign Secretary, Straw was involved in kick-starting the fraught talks on Iran’s nuclear programme now taking place between Tehran and the big powers. Hague was circumspect - but hoped that Iran would take the “opportunity” to “open a new relationship” with the international community.
Earlier - and sensationally - the normally super-impassive Hammond made a joke. Or that’s presumably what it was, rather than a baleful warning to dissident service brass. Confronted by the LibDems’ Tessa Munt with a declaration by Rear-Admiral Patrick Middleton that the argument for the government’s precious Trident “is rapidly becoming a losing one”, he said: “I suspect this is a retired rear admiral... and if it isn’t, he soon will be.”
The magicians using online collaboration to push boundaries
Jennifer Lawrence attacks mass media again over body image
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
You can STILL be jailed for being a republican, government confirms, and it remains illegal to even 'imagine' overthrowing the Queen
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Fighting back: the woman giving a voice (and 49,999 others) to the victims of sexism - by giving an airing to their horror stories
PM denies two child limit for benefits is part of Tory welfare policy
Ethan Couch: Texas quadruple murderer – or a victim of ‘affluenza’?
- 1 America's 'virgin births'? One in 200 mothers 'became pregnant without having sex'
- 2 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 4 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber announces he's 'retiring from music'
- 5 Children evacuated from swimming pool after prosthetic leg mistaken for paedophile
- < Previous
- Next >
£25000 - £32000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Business Analyst - Banking...
£21999 - £27001 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Do you have exten...
£25000 - £35000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Harrington Starr: Business Analy...
£42000 - £51000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Are You Receiving...