Tuesday, October 31, 2006
The Revolt That Never Was
In the end, it was a bit of a damp squib. For all the talk of nervous whips applying thumbscrews to Labour MPs and ministers being called back from foreign parts, a mere 12 Labour MPs in the end rebelled against the government in today's debate on the Iraq War - nothing in comparison to previous rebellions which have seen the government defeated a couple of times. Called by the SNP and Plaid Cymru, and reluctantly supported by the Tories, the Commons motion was proposing an inquiry into how we went to war in Iraq. The Conservatives actually favour waiting for such an inquiry until after the war, whilst Labour naturally favour not having one at all.
Or at least they did.
Although the government won the debate today, Defence Secretary Des Browne appears to have promised an inquiry after all, in comments made to television broadcasters. As ever, the government's message is confused and subject to late changes, and heaven forbid they should provide either consistency or clarity.
As far as lessons about Commons behaviour go, it was always a no-brainer for Labour MPs not to walk into the same lobbies as the opposition parties on an opposition debate. However, it is a sign of how fractious this parliament is - and in particular its all important Labour MPs - that the expectation of government defeats is so regular.
And we do at least know that an inquiry is in the offing - even after leaving office, Blair is likely to be haunted by its findings.