Friday, August 30, 2013

After the Syrian vote

It is a good thing for the government of a democracy to be able to put foreign policy to a vote of the elected parliament, particularly if we are talking about a possible military intervention.

However, there is a huge contradiction in attitudes to this, especially on the part of the press and whoever is currently in opposition.

* We want parliament to have a role in ensuring Britain does not get dragged into foreign wars for which there is not public support.

* We want a proper and open public debate including a debate in the House of Commons before we get involved in a war, and we complain bitterly if the government of the day appears to be trying to act without one.

* But if a government does consult the House of Commons, and doesn't entirely get it's own way, and listens to the result, lots of people are instantly ready to accuse the government of being weak, suggest their position has been undermined, etc etc. As is now happening after the Syria vote.

But these two positions are incompatible.

If you want parliament to act as a check on the Executive, and you expect the government to co-operate with this, then you cannot use the fact that the government allowed a vote and respected the result as a stick to beat the government with or you will be sending an open signal to any future government that allowing proper democratic oversight to work is likely to weaken their position.

The House of Commons has made it's position on Syria clear. This will be respected.

That is a sign of the strength of our democracy, not of weakness.

And anyone who uses the fact that the goverment held this vote and have accepted the result as a stick with which to beat them does not have the health of British democracy at heart.


Jim said...

This has been one of the rare occasions that the government has done its job.

The job of the government is to represent the will of the British people. The will of the British people is not to go gun-ho into Syria on a whim. Most certainly not yet, not without absolute concrete undeniable evidence of who used chemical weapons, where they got them, how they deployed them and why. (at least that seems to be the opinion of most people i have spoken to about this) Too many memories of Iraq and WMD i think.

So the government done its job (for once) and the decision has been reached not to go in.

Now, as you may know, I am not exactly David Cameron's no.1 fan, but I can not criticize the fact that he has chosen to accept the decision reached by both the British people and their representatives in government.

After all if a PM is "not allowed" to have a vote go against them, then what is the point in having an opposition or a parliament at all?

Chris Whiteside said...

That's exactly the point, Jim. Paliament, and through it the people, has been allowed to speak.

I think Cameron deserves credit for respecting that, not criticism.

Jim said...

This true, but the age old question returns really, does it not? you say

"If you want parliament to act as a check on the Executive

I ask once again, who holds the executive to account on behalf of the people of Witney, Tatton etc...***insert member of the executives constituency here***

Let alone the people of Buckinghamshire, you see the current system (even if it does work once in a blue moon) is unfit for purpose.

Jim said...

mind you I dont think the current govenment can top this for shear incopetency

Chris Whiteside said...


There are only two explanations I ahve heard for Brown's sale of Britain's gold reserves which make any sense, either

1) this was a hidden subsidy to UK banks which had got themselves into trouble speculating on gold futures, or

2) it was an act of spectacular incompetence.

You could of course make an argument that it was both.