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Newslinks for Saturday 31st August 2013

7.30pm ToryDiary: Obama seeks Congress to approve military action on Syria

3.30pm ToryDiary: What would Thatcher have done about Syria?

2pm  Ryan Shorthouse on Comment: Optimism is crucial for Conservatives

12.30pm LeftWatch: The strange death of liberal interventionist Labour

10.45am ToryDiary:Downing Street's Corporal Jones moment?

ToryDiary:A majority of Tory members backed missile strikes on Syria - but most of them wanted Commons approval first

Graeme Archer on Comment: Our hearts are moved by Syria. But not, yet, our consciences

Also on Comment: Dominic Raab MP says More benefits tourists arrive, while more strivers leave - twin trends we must reverse

TimesassadSyria: US prepares to attack Assad

"Washington cleared the way to go to war without Britain last night as it laid out the case against a Syrian regime that had unleashed the “indiscriminate, inconceivable horror of chemical weapons” on its own people. The White House shrugged off the shock of the Commons vote that has left America’s staunchest ally on the sidelines and produced what it called “compelling” evidence against President Assad." - The Times (£)

  • "US Secretary of State John Kerry says the US knows the Assad regime was behind the chemical attack in Damascus, which he says killed 1,429 people. Mr Kerry said the dead included 426 children, and described the attack as an "inconceivable horror"." - BBC

>Today:Graeme Archer on Comment: Our hearts are moved by Syria. But not, yet, our consciences

>Yesterday:  ToryDiary: Cameron suffers the worst foreign policy defeat in modern times - here are eight observations on what it means

NewYorkSyria: Is the special relationship over?

"President Obama's attempts to form a coalition of nations willing to attack Syria appear to be splintering. The biggest blow was dealt by the normally reliable Brits, whose Parliament stunned Obama on Thursday by voting down Prime Minister David Cameron’s proposal to join the attack on Bashar Assad’s government." - New York Daily News

  • "Foreign Secretary William Hague said US Secretary of State John Kerry had thanked him for the UK's "steadfast friendship", and they were united on ending the Syria conflict and use of chemical weapons."- BBC
  • Mailfrench"The US delivered a stunning snub to Britain yesterday, lavishing praise on its ‘oldest ally’ France as the two countries prepared to launch missile strikes on Syria as early as this weekend. Secretary of State John Kerry paid tribute to the French for standing ready to join the US in confronting the ‘thug and murderer’ President Bashar Assad. In a White House address last night, Mr Kerry pointedly made no mention of Britain – despite the historic ‘special relationship’ between the two nations. Instead America was ‘confident and gratified’ it was ‘not alone’ in its will to act, he said, praising France, Australia and even Turkey for their support." - Daily Mail
  • "It is nonsense to talk about a ‘special relationship’. America and its rulers think about Britain very little, and when they do so it is only in the context of Europe — as Ukip would do well to recognise. Given that this is so, why do successive British prime ministers lead us into grief by trying to make us play a leadership role in the world which nobody else takes seriously? We are still a relatively important, though precarious, economy. But claims that we hold a warrant card to play international policeman are grotesque, and have been repeatedly exposed as such." - Max Hastings Daily Mail
  • Sunspecial"It is the first time since the Vietnam War in the 1960s that the US and UK have not stood together in a major military engagement. Details also emerged of an extraordinary phone confrontation between Mr Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband before Thursday’s vote. After Mr Miliband did a U-turn on his support for military action, fearing a revolt by his party, the PM told him: “You are letting down America.” - The Sun (£)
  • "Defence secretary Philip Hammond has expressed apprehension about the future of Britain's defence ties with the US. Hammond's comments came as John Kerry, the US secretary of state, praised France as the oldest ally of the US and made no mention of Britain. In an interview with Channel 4 News, the defence secretary showed how the Anglo-American special relationship had been shaken by the parliamentary defeat when he said that France's renewed alliance with the US placed Britain in an "uncomfortable place". - The Guardian

ShappsSyria: Calls for Cameron to rebuild relations with his Party

"Senior figures are saying that, as a first step, the prime minister should ensure that a senior parliamentary figure joins his top team as party chairman. There is no criticism of the current two co-chairmen, Grant Shapps and Lord Feldman. But they are not members of the prime minister's closest inner circle when the biggest decisions are made. One minister said: "There needs to be a much better transmission mechanism to the parliamentary party. Under Margaret Thatcher, the party chairman, Cecil Parkinson, was a big hitter who sat in the Falklands war cabinet. Chris Patten performed a similar role under John Major. That role does not exist. If there are five people in the room making major decisions on foreign policy, you know that the current co-chairmen are not there." - The Guardian

  • "One Conservative MP who abstained told The Daily Telegraph that it felt like his party’s whips just “couldn’t be bothered”, while a rebel Tory admitted: “Of course, some of the voting was down to animosity between backbenchers and the leadership. But the worst of it was the feeling that Downing Street was taking their support for granted.” - Daily Telegraph
  • "A strong whips’ office is vital in tight votes. A Cabinet minister who served in both the Blair and Brown governments retells his first encounter with Labour whips. Newly elected, he was walking through the corridors of the House when he was accosted by one. He was pushed against the wall, his testicles grabbed and twisted sharply – and painfully. “Son, you’ve done nothing to annoy me. Yet. Just think what I’ll do if you cross me.” That is how you manage backbenchers." - John McTernan Daily Telegraph

>Today:ToryDiary:A majority of Tory members backed missile strikes on Syria - but most of them wanted Commons approval first


TelegraphsyriaSyria: Ministers face sack for mising vote

"Alan Duncan, David Gauke and Steve Webb failed to return from holiday to support the Government, angering the Prime Minister, according to sources. Justine Greening, the International Development Secretary, and Mark Simmonds, a junior Foreign Office minister, claim to have not realised that voting had begun as they were in a meeting. Commons officials said the explanation was baffling as it “would have been clear” that a vote was happening. Kenneth Clarke also abstained after being given permission for “logistical family reasons”, but the 73-year-old minister without portfolio is widely expected to lose his job anyway in a forthcoming reshuffle." - Daily Telegraph

  • "David Cameron was under pressure to sack his Chief Whip Sir George Young after a ‘shambolic’ operation which saw six ministers, two whips and two ministerial aides miss the vote altogether." - Daily Mail

Ed Miliband says we must help the Syrians

"Ed Miliband was accused of ‘breathtaking hypocrisy’ last night after urging the Government not to ‘wash its hands’ of Syria. The Labour leader, who effectively blocked Britain from joining plans for allied strikes on Syria this week, said the Prime Minister must now find ‘other ways’ to end the slaughter in the war-torn country." - Daily Mail

  • "The proper lesson of the past week is that Britain's future does not lie either in turning in on itself or rushing into conflict without properly considering the consequences. It lies instead in a hard-headed multilateralism, where crucial decisions about our foreign policy are made in a calm and measured
    way." Ed Miliband The Guardian
  • "This is not an argument against revived parliamentary clout, which is indeed welcome. It is a question of promises between Privy Counsellors, conventions of cross-party co-operation at an hour of national peril, and of party leaders behaving like grown-ups. After a poor summer, the younger Miliband (who knifed his brother David to become Labour leader) was worried about his political prospects. But will anyone now ever trust this most slippery and unstatesmanlike of politicians?" - Quentin Letts Daily Mail

PatersonSyria: Owen Paterson opposed military strike says Charles Moore

"At the emergency Cabinet meeting before the debate on Thursday, only one minister, the Defra Secretary, Owen Paterson, objected forcefully to what was being proposed. He complained that there had been too little consultation with ministers, let alone with backbenchers. He warned that party members were hostile. He wanted to know what outcomes were expected from a punitive strike. He wondered why chemical weapons were wrong in a way that all the other horrible things going on in Syria were, seemingly, not. He considered that Britain did not have a dog in the Syrian fight. The Cabinet took its stand on the unique wickedness of chemical weapons, however. Mr Paterson’s objections were passed over almost in embarrassed silence, as if he had emitted an unpleasant smell." - Charles Moore Daily Telegraph

ParrisSyria: Matthew Parris says Cameron has boosted Parliamentary democracy

"Mr Cameron waited for the Commons before setting the course. Mr Blair twisted the truth in a speech about WMDs in which few of his claims have turned out to be true. Mr Cameron acknowledged properly the unknowns and the uncertainties. Mr Blair won his vote and proceeded to a war whose deforming consequences are still with us. Cameron lost, acknowledged Parliament’s supremacy with a good grace, and cancelled his plans. I know which of these two approaches, and which of these two prime ministers, I admire more." - Matthew Parris The Times (£)

A round up of other comment on Syria

  • "Seventy-four years ago we learned a terrible lesson. However unpalatable it might be to intervene in the face of evil, the cost of doing nothing is higher. Appeasement did not just fail to stop Hitler. It bought him time to get even stronger. On Thursday the Labour Party and Conservative and Lib Dem rebels forgot that lesson. After Neville Chamberlain signed the Munich Agreement in 1938, Winston Churchill said that we had suffered “a defeat without a war”. His words are worth remembering. Because the consequences of Thursday’s vote are shattering." - The Sun Says
  • "The Prime Minister will pay the price for his misjudgement. Perhaps it should not be so. This is, after all, how parliamentary democracy is meant to work. But Mr Cameron is, nonetheless, humbled at home and weakened abroad. The debacle also exposes, once again, the deep rift in the Tory party, as well as squandering the political advantage from Ed Miliband’s troubled summer." - Editorial The Independent
  • "Ultimately the only way to bring peace to Syria will be through a political resolution, and Britain must take a leadership role in trying to deliver this. That’s why the Syria conflict must be at the top of Britain’s diplomatic agenda in all international forums. And that must start at next week’s G20 summit." - Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander The Daily Telegraph
  • "When in the next weeks and months we see further atrocities committed by Assad, and again chemical weapons used against civilians will we thank ourselves that we did nothing to try and prevent their use. I doubt it. I personally believe that the vote in the House of Commons was a tragedy." - Damian Collins MP Huffington Post
  • "Mr Cameron made a massive miscalculation this week. But he is not the only one who has had a wake-up call. So have the Foreign Office and the armed forces. So have the intelligence services and the government lawyers. All of them have something tough to absorb about public tolerance for dangerous military engagements in hostile environments which, ever since Iraq, have felt variously precipitate, illegitimate, excessive, costly, unfocused and even, in the end, not really our fight either." - Editoral The Guardian
  • Sarah Wollaston: Why I voted No - The Guardian

Cameron stands up for Gibraltar

"Britain will always stand up for Gibraltar and the interests of its people, David Cameron has said. The prime minister said it was something that mattered to us "very deeply", as he held a meeting to discuss the border dispute with Spain. After talks at Downing Street, the British territory's Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said Gibraltar knew it had "a friend in David Cameron"." - BBC

Osborne fights for HS2

"George Osborne will seek to shore up flagging support for the planned High Speed 2 railway tomorrow by warning of dire passenger overcrowding and a log jam of rail freight if the £50 billion scheme is scrapped. The Chancellor is expected to defend the Government’s big infrastructure project in a BBC television interview after weeks of criticism fuelled by rising cost estimates and growing political opposition." - The Times (£)

LiztrussTruss warns Britain still lags behind world leaders on education

"Just one-in-20 teenagers in the UK gained top marks in three core subjects that are seen as vital for students’ future careers, figures show. The pass rate was much lower than that witnessed in the top-performing nations, with almost 15 per cent of pupils gaining good marks in parts of China. Elizabeth Truss, the Education Minister, said: 'This analysis highlights the importance of reading, maths and science for our future economic prosperity. But it also demonstrates that we lag behind the world leaders.' " - Daily Telegraph

News in brief

  • Alistair Darling warns of "dishonest prospectus" for Scottish independence - Daily Telegraph
  • Nelson Mandela returns home - BBC
  • Andrew Marr says he was working too hard - The Times(£)
  • Faith schools "help better off parents" - The Times(£)
  • Scottish politicians attack "shameful" going home posters - The Independent


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