Gordon Brown's majority was cut by more than half last night after he suffered his second rebellion in a week as Labour MPs joined opposition parties demanding an immediate inquiry into the Iraq war.
The Conservative call for an inquiry was defeated but 12 Labour rebels voted with Tories and Liberal Democrats to back calls for a Privy Council investigation into events before and after the invasion. The Government's working majority was reduced from 67 to 28. The rebellion came days after 19 Labour rebels joined the Tories in calling for the suspension of the Post Office closure programme.
Speaking during yesterday's day-long debate on Iraq, David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, made his clearest acknowledgement that the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq has been a failure.
"It seems to me absolutely clear that the war itself went better than expected, but that the building of the peace has gone much worse than people expected. That is the basic truth and we might as well all accept that. The mission has not yet been accomplished."
Mr Miliband insisted that now was not the right time to hold an inquiry. The Prime Minister has promised to hold an inquiry, but argues that it should not take place while British troops are still in action.
William Hague, the shadow Foreign Secretary, said it would be a "dereliction of duty" if the Government failed to learn the lessons of the invasion. "They should not shirk this task because it seems unpleasant and should remember that, if this inquiry is not established by this administration, it most surely will be by the next one."
Ed Davey, for the Liberal Democrats, said: "I hope the House will vote for an inquiry but if the Government really does try to put it off they must know that their day of reckoning will come."