30 August 2013

A radical government without support is a dictatorship

And so David Cameron becomes the first PM in over two centuries to fail to carry the House with him on war action. He gets little sympathy from Max Hastings, who is still seething over being prevented from having an interview with a British general on the ground that "there has been far too much military leaking to the media".

But it's not just Cameron who is displaying premature signs of the autocrat. Michael Gove appears to think that bovine party loyalty trumps the will and interest of the country he has a temporary part in governing: it is reported that he "had to be restrained by colleagues" as he repeatedly yelled "disgrace" at Conservative and LibDem MPs who voted against bombing Syria.

The UN inspectors' report on the alleged use of chemical weapons is not yet due and it is far from certain that the Syrian government is responsible for the attack that is supposed to form the pretext for another terrible Western military adventure. The allegation is hardly credible: how, knowing that it would trigger direct intervention by the USA, is Assad supposed to have believed launching a gas attack would serve his best interest, and even if he had thought that, why on earth bomb a school?

The sight of the wounded, some of them being trucked in from somewhere, is certainly horrible, but just as Othello's demand for "ocular proof" is used against him, it is still difficult to determine causes and agents. In a TV world, even those in developing countries have learned how to present a story to the news media. Let's not forget that aside from the conflicting personal and political ambitions in the now war-torn country of Syria, we have vehemently differing religious views, even within Islam: its Prophet himself said that there would be 72 factions, and only one would be right.

In the midst of this information fog, we're told Gove "did not join colleagues in calling for MPs to vote on military action, saying he believed the appropriate response should be decided by the Prime Minister." Soldiers, who have to kill and die, are not so gung-ho. Hastings quotes a letter in yesterday's Times newspaper from General Sir Michael Rose:

"... the invasion of Iraq, initiated by Bush and supported so zealously by Blair, triggered the unravelling of the status quo in the Middle East, resulting in so much misery and death."

This is the same Michael Gove who is charged with directing the education of the young and during the brief reign of this minority government is nevertheless hurrying through radical change, and (I suspect) using Ofsted as his battering-ram to denigrate schools in areas of social deprivation and force their conversion into "academies". He and his colleagues remind me of the episode of "Bottom" in which Adrian Edmondson proposes to break into the off-licence and drink as much as they can before the police arrive.

This is a controlling government that is out of control, and the sooner it goes, the better.

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