The Corner

David Cameron Bows to Parliamentary Pressure, Delays Syria Vote

In London, the British goverment has run into trouble obtaining parliamentary approval for a strike on Syria. Per the Telegraph, the leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband, told Prime Minister David Cameron that he would not yet be able to count on the support of the Labour party. Meanwhile, some senior members of Cameron’s own Conservative party have indicated that they might refuse to back their leader, too.

Unlike in the United States, in which the separation of powers ensure that legislative initiatives fail regularly, in a parliamentary system the failure to win a vote represents a serious embarrassment to the government. Miliband did not rule out his party’s support entirely, but he did insist that tomorrow’s motion include the line, “Before any direct British involvement in such action a further vote of the House of Commons will take place.”

As the Telegraph notes:

The Prime Minister has now said he will wait for a report by United Nations weapons inspectors before seeking the approval of MPs for “direct British involvement” in the Syrian intervention.

Downing Street said the decision to wait for the UN was based on the “deep concerns” the country still harbours over the Iraq War.

MPs had been recalled to vote on a motion on Thursday expected to sanction military action. Instead, after a Labour intervention, they will debate a broader motion calling for a “humanitarian response”.

A second vote would be required before any British military involvement. This could now take place next week.

The general consensus here in America appears to be that the president is nervous about asking Congress for permission in case it refuses. Novel a theory about the appropriate role of the legislature as this is, the news that the British parliament is asserting itself will likely do nothing to bring the president back around to his former view that any war conducted without the permission of Congress is illegal.


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