Thursday the BBC (on 5Live at least) actually performed its task of reporting the events and considerations leading up to the vote on any attack on Syria with a fair degree of balance…though Seamus Milne and Labour’s Madeleine Moon I thought got off lightly without challenge to their anti-war stance.
Friday it all went pear shaped and normal service was resumed with the knives out for Cameron whilst Ed Miliband was being groomed for higher office.
Certainly a great deal of hyperbole in full flow from the BBC….
‘For Parliament to defeat a Prime Minister on matters of peace and war is without modern precedent…the question is what does it mean?
First and foremost that Britain will not take part in any military attack on Syria.
The prime Minister has lost control of his own foreign and defence policy and as a result will cut a diminished figure on the international stage and the US may now question the value and reliability of Britain as an ally.
It is however here at home that David Cameron will feel the most pain. The ruptures with his own party are back on public display.
Ed Miliband has been given the opportunity to disprove the claim that he is weak and he will walk taller as a result.
The repercussions of this vote could be felt for a very long time to come.’
Has Cameron ‘lost control of his own foreign and defence policy’?
No…he elected to go for a vote when constitutionally he didn’t have to….his choice. Apart from that isn’t it the role of Parliament to vote on legislation and government policies rather than to just act as a rubber stamp?
The fact is that control over any move to war was not ‘lost’ to parliament but to the likes of the BBC which has had an enormous influence on how the Iraq war is now seen by the Public and hence by politicians….foreign policy is now, at least partly, dictated by the BBC and how politicians think the BBC will react and report and comment on their decisions.
As for a ‘ defeat without modern precedent’ well that’s just a bit of over ripe rhetoric….the British were only going to provide a modest amount of military help to the US and the importance of this initial action and its potential impact was probably quite minimal with Assad unlikely to take much notice…depending of course on the scale of the US attacks.
Will the ‘repercussions be felt for a very long time to come’? Doubtful….should Assad continue with mass murders, despite the assertion that there will be no military action in Syria, period, it is likely that a second attempt to get a yes vote on subsequent action might be possible and more successful.
But what is most interesting about Robinson’s piece is his reaction, or lack of, to Miliband who has proved shifty, without principle and opportunistic….so much so that Labour’s Dan Hodges has finally resigned in disgust at Miliband’s lack of character and backbone:
Robinson doesn’t bother us with any analysis of Miliband’s dithering and general lack of honesty, nor for the reasons he changed his mind on supporting Cameron….only 20 minutes later do we get the comment that: ‘This was a major set back for Cameron….but Ed Miliband’s position changed because he too was facing a pretty big rebellion from his own backbenchers.’
But that was it. Miliband has got away with murder…or allowing Assad to continue to murder unchecked and a good portion of the blame can be layed at the door of the BBC for their campaign against the Iraq War and the pressure that puts on MPs to vote in a certain way….and Miliband is unchallenged in his new found role as honourable ‘peacemaker’ when in reality his position is one of convenient, opportunistic indecision and sloping shoulders.
John Humphrys added to the overwrought commentary and undue tone of great import:
‘It has been described as the greatest foreign policy defeat since Suez in 1956….the leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, was the architect of that defeat.’
Personally I don’t think it was of such huge importance…nothing at all on the scale of Suez. And didn’t Tony Blair get shunted out of office by his defeat over Israel and Lebanon?
The expected attack by the US and UK, and maybe France, would have been a minimal strike designed to make Assad think twice about usng chemical weapons…and that’s all. For the UK to decide not to participate is hardly earth shattering.
Humphrys goes on to tell us that this has changed Britain’s role in the world…a very significant thing for Parliament to have done he claims.
Well….it’s a one off vote about a single issue….and even that vote could be reversed at a later date.
When challenged on his assertion…pointing out Libya for instance…Humphrys claims ‘that was then, this is now’.
Fundamentally, he tells us, British foreign policy has changed….we have a new role in the world…of sitting back and doing nothing?
Well, yes….and this is now and tomorrow is another day and another decision which could be completely different.
Will we also have a new foreign policy then or merely something that adapts and changes with each new circumstance that arises as any sensible nation would adopt?
Humphrys goes onto say that Cameron’s ‘authority’ is diminished….again when challenged and told it was temporary Humphrys insisted that it was permanent.
Guess he has an agenda.
Nick Robinson is similarly excited:
‘This is not a one off…Parliament has used its power to rein in a Prime Minister and effect a profound constitutional change…the genie cannot be put back in the bottle.’
As far as I can see this is a very minor political and military affair…one that should blow over in the normal course of events unless continually whipped up by Miliband with support from the likes of Robinson and Humphrys, unwitting or not.
The BBC (and the rest of course) has been giving this story a far greater significance than it merits….and has led them to draw all sorts of conclusions that seem all too conveniently in line with their own politics….claiming this is highly damaging for Cameron whilst Miliband has risen Phoenix like from the ashes of his more usual political roastings.
The reality is Cameron stood by his principles and allowed Parliament to take a vote on whether to go to war (of a very small kind) whilst Miliband dithered and changed his mind and took the line of least resistence rather than stand up and be counted even if he knew he would face defeat.
That is not a picture we get from the BBC at all.