Simon Carr: Suddenly everyone's an expert in the art of political conflict

Ed's technique was to itemise all the difficult things Cameron had done and then aggressively urge him to do them.
Click to follow
The Independent Online

No one seems to think there's anything cynical in Cameron's Libya campaign – certainly in comparison to Tony Blair's exercises in Iraq. At worst Libya is puberty for prime ministers. Since Jim Callaghan they've all done it, and it's usually gone better than we'd feared.

The Commons yesterday was happy to indulge him. But because he pitched it to us in nobler terms than honest revenge, the unanswered questions do linger longer than the moral – or sentimental – arguments. Nadhim Zahawi wanted to know that it really wasn't about regime change, was it? Er, well, no but yes. A bit, you know.

Ronnie Campbell's red-faced request for a guarantee we wouldn't put troops on the ground went unfulfilled.

Why didn't we just let the Arabs do it, John Barron asked, as it was their business. No real answer there other than the idea they weren't up to it. And as the no-fly zone was now in place, did that mean no more bombings, Elfyn Llwyd asked. Surely not, we're just getting going.

Malcolm Rifkind's close reading of the resolution showed we could arm the rebels if we wanted to, was that on the agenda? And what would happen if there was a ceasefire? True, that would be a disaster. Ben Wallace suggested the rebels might be "using one infidel against another" and he wanted to know what do we do as and when the rebels start to commit atrocities. Nonetheless, they're overwhelmingly in, even Ed Miliband, who managed to get his own back story in. That was almost as bad as "speaking as someone whose mother died of cancer" ... but you can't stop them projecting their own inner life on to the unknowing world. But hooray, Miliband scored a parliamentary victory by making Cameron seethe; I'm pretty sure he was seething. You may have needed Sketch-vision to discern it but the expression on Cameron's face was a picture.

Ed's technique was to itemise all the difficult things Cameron had done and then aggressively urge him to do them. "I want to impress on the PM the central importance of getting the agreement of the Arab League," he said, as if it was his own idea and Cameron hadn't discerned it yet. There was much wise – or sly – advice of this sort.

But he also lost the House. Well before he said, "Which brings me to the third part of my speech" Cameron had leafed quietly through the speech he had delivered, gently closed the folder, and resigned himself to another 20 minutes of supportive hectoring.

"I see the PM and Foreign Secretary nodding on the front bench," he said at one point. They weren't; they were nodding off.

PS: Ming Campbell's inadvertent portmanteau dictator should be recorded: Mugaffi.