Syria fallout: David Cameron ‘back to square one’ ahead of election after humiliation on world stage
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Friday 30 August 2013
The irony of David Cameron’s humiliating inability to send British forces join military strikes on Syria is that he has been urging Barack Obama to take tough action on the crisis for months.
When the US President phoned the Prime Minister during his Cornwall family holiday at 4.30pm last Saturday to seek his support, Mr Cameron could hardly say no.
Previous attempts to arm the anti-Assad rebels, led by Mr Cameron, petered out. But after the horrific chemical weapons attack on civilians near Damascus, the moment to intervene had surely arrived.
Mr Cameron did warn the President that there would be hurdles to jump on international law, at the United Nations and in the British Parliament – but Mr Obama had expected a slight delay rather than a rebuff from America’s most reliable ally. Aides insist that Mr Cameron feels passionately about Syria and did not need to be persuaded to “do something,” by his wife Samantha, who was horrified when she visited a camp for Syrian refugees in Lebanon in March as part of her work as a patron of Save the Children.
When Mr Cameron sits down with fellow G20 leaders in St Petersburg on Thursday, including Mr Obama and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, he will now cut a diminished figure. If Britain’s role on the world stage looks less assured, where does Mr Cameron’s worst crisis since becoming prime minister leave him on the domestic front?
The timing is pretty awful. In recent months, many Conservative MPs have begun to think for the first time their party has a fighting chance of winning the 2015 election – or at least retaining power.
The economy has finally turned, the Tories are united on Europe for now and Labour has had a miserable summer amid doubts about Ed Miliband’s strategy.
“We are back to square one,” one senior Tory MP groaned today in the wake of the vote. “We have thrown Miliband a lifeline.”
Attacks on the Labour leader as “weak” may be harder to make stick after he adopted a stance on Syria more in tune with British public opinion and was ready to stand up to America’s demands.
Allies insist that Mr Cameron is strong and determined enough to recover his authority.
They argue that that Syria will not decide the next election and that “economic trust” will matter more to voters than whether or not the leader is trusted over foreign policy. On the economy, they believe that Mr Cameron will still outscore Mr Miliband in 2015.
Yet the scars of Thursday’s shattering Commons defeat will remain. Mr Cameron looked out of touch with public opinion - a danger for him on the domestic front too, especially when 2015 is bound to be a “living standards” election.
Some Tory MPs even predict that the Labour leader’s apparent victory on Syria may turn out to be Phyrric, in the event of more atrocities by the Assad regime. “The wheel may yet turn full circle,” one said.
Unfortunately for Mr Cameron, such events are not under his control.
- 1 Tourist films plane's descent just metres above packed Caribbean beach
- 2 Kate Moss: Previously unpublished nude photo revealed by Mert and Marcus
- 3 Indian woman creates 'Marriage CV' after parents put her on dating site: 'Definitely not marriage material. Won’t grow long hair, ever'
- 4 World Book Day: Boy 'excluded' from school after dressing up as Fifty Shades' Christian Grey
- 5 Bad Jews poster 'censored' on London Tube
Tourist films plane's descent just metres above packed Caribbean beach
Indian woman creates 'Marriage CV' after parents put her on dating site: 'Definitely not marriage material. Won’t grow long hair, ever'
Becky Watts: Four appear in court charged with hiding body parts after teenager's death
Isis 'bulldozes' Nimrud: UNESCO condemns destruction of ancient Assyrian site as a 'war crime'
Professor Brian Cox brands astrology-believing Tory MP David Tredinnick an 'outlier on the spectrum of reason'
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Elif Shafak: Turkish author warns against rise of British nationalism
Most people think legal tax avoidance is just as wrong as illegal tax evasion, poll suggests
Nigel Farage promises Ukip will not 'stigmatise' would-be migrants – and says he wants 'everyone to speak the same language'
£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...
£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...
£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...
£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...