Cameron banged the drums like Blair, and one Tory didn't like it

Stekch: This was a distinctly – and ambitiously – interventionist statement

Related Topics

There was a telling moment after David Cameron had given his Algeria statement in the Commons when the Conservative backbencher Julian Lewis asked him to consider the virtues of "containment" which had "served us well for 70 years in the Cold War and for 38 years in relation to Northern Ireland".

Never mind that this is a pretty rosy view of the British military presence in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. It was the clearest expression, on this most consensual of parliamentary days, of a strain of Tory unease that Cameron might have been too infected with the virus of neo-Blairite "liberal interventionism".

Sure enough, Cameron politely promised to "think carefully" about Lewis's "very intelligent point", before demolishing it. In Somalia, for example, the "effort should be to… politically, militarily, diplomatically, through aid and everything else… squeeze the terrorists out of the space. That is not containment, that is aiming over time to completely overcome them."

True Cameron's sober tone did not quite betray the "crusading zeal" attributed to him at one point by Labour's Dennis Skinner, worried that British troops would find themselves embroiled in Mali. Nor were there the rhetorical flights of Blair's famous Chicago speech or the run-up to the Iraq war. Nor, mercifully a binary division of the entire Muslim world into two "arcs" of "extremism" and "moderation".

It was nevertheless a distinctly – and ambitiously – interventionist statement, in which he repeatedly promised – without actually using the phrase – to be tough on terrorism, tough on the causes of terrorism.

He defended the intervention in Libya, and its possible unleashing of the forces at work at Mali and Algeria, saying that dictatorships provoked terrorism.

"We must frustrate the terrorists with our security," he declared. "We must beat them militarily… we must close down the ungoverned space in which they thrive and we must deal with the grievances they use to garner support." You don't as Prime Minister make a sombre Commons announcement about a hostage crisis which left among 37 hostages killed – three Britons confirmed dead and three others missing – without expecting normal inter-party hostilities to be suspended.

Ed Miliband expressed his agreement about the "unimaginable nightmare" into which the hostages at Im Amenas were plunged. Cameron agreed with him back in response. And so on.

Yet even on these predictable occasions, something political usually happens. Yesterday it was the first question asked of the PM by the former Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell since his banishment at the hands of what increasingly looks like a police conspiracy. Mitchell, who had pressed the case for aid spending in Africa, had done "excellent work" as Development Secretary.

It helped Cameron defend a controversial policy. And hint that Mitchell was on his way back. Neat.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
With an eye for strategy: Stephen Fry’s General Melchett and Rowan Atkinson’s Edmund Blackadder  

What Cameron really needs is to turn this into a khaki election

Matthew Norman
An Italian policeman stands guard as migrants eat while waiting at the port of Lampedusa to board a ferry bound for Porto Empedocle in Sicily. Authorities on the Italian island of Lampedusa struggled to cope with a huge influx of newly-arrived migrants as aid organisations warned the Libya crisis means thousands more could be on their way  

Migrant boat disaster: EU must commit funds to stop many more dying

Alistair Dawber
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own