One predictable aspect of the August break – more reliable than sunshine – is that someone will call for the House of Commons to be dragged back from holiday because there is a problem that is said to need urgent attention from our elected representatives.
The current cry is for Parliament to be recalled because of the appalling events in northern Iraq. MPs and peers will “get very frustrated” if their summer break is not thus interrupted, General Sir Richard Dannatt, former Chief of the General Staff, told BBC Breakfast Time. He is not alone in that view.
There are precedents for recalling Parliament during a crisis. Both Houses sat on several days in August 1939, when Hitler was threatening Poland. Margaret Thatcher summoned MPs on a Saturday in 1982, after Argentina’s occupation of the Falklands, and during August 1990, after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. In August 2011, MPs returned for a day because of the rioting that broke out in London and other English cities.
These were matters requiring urgent political decisions. But last year, after the Syrian regime had unleashed chemical weapons against its opponents, David Cameron pulled MPs back without having a clear idea of what, if anything, the UK was supposed to do. Absurdly, the Commons tied him down to doing nothing.
And while the news from Iraq is gruesome, it is not proposed that the UK become involved, except as a provider of equipment and humanitarian aid. If Mr Cameron intended to send British troops in to fight Isis, that would certainly justify a recall of Parliament, but even our potential allies, the Kurds, are not asking for troops on the ground.
In the circumstances, the Prime Minister is wise to take his family holiday and to let our MPs have theirs.