Precisely as I reported two days ago, Cameron really is in trouble over the Syria vote due to his patently ludicrous claim of the existence of 70,000 “moderate rebels”. Most MPs are pretty unpleasant people, but they do have a high opinion of their own importance. They will vote for anything they see as in their own self-interest, but not if it means kneeling and licking the floor when they are being treated with very obvious contempt, in public. Well, a great many of them will even do that if it advances their career, and the George Osborne tendency do it in private and pay for it. But not even pretending to take MPs seriously is a risky tactic, and that is what Cameron has done with his foolish ruse of just inventing 70,000 moderate fighters.
Today the government rubbed MPs faces further in the dirt by saying they could not give a breakdown of who the 70,000 are, because it is a secret.
Yes, honestly. The identity of our allies – even just in terms of what groups they belong to – is a secret.
In consequence the Tory majority Foreign Affairs Committee has refused to endorse airstrikes. Cameron will be under real pressure to come up with a more intellectually tenable line by tomorrow. He can hardly enter the debate on the basis that the entire strategy depends on allies whose existence is secret. Or perhaps he can, on the grounds the Blairites are conditioned to support bombing anybody, anywhere, and the Tories are mere lickspittles. He may look down his long Etonian nose with contempt at the Commons, and think “the peasants will do anything I ask”.
It is going to be an interesting 24 hours. The self-respect of the Commons is at stake. I still think Cameron may have overreached.