Syria crisis: Commentators react to Cameron defeat

Prime Minister David Cameron David Cameron failed to convince enough MPs of the need for action in Syria

Prime Minister David Cameron's Commons defeat over military intervention in Syria has prompted a wave of debate online.

What does it mean for the UK, Mr Cameron's leadership and the West's role in Syria?

Kevin Maguire, writing in the Mirror, says it was "humbling and catastrophic" for Mr Cameron but "what a wonderful night for democracy, international law, the British people and Ed Miliband".

Mr Cameron, he says, was unable to explain convincingly how Britain entering the war would benefit Syrians or Britain, and suggests the prime minister was "playing a bigger, more dangerous game".

"The suspicion is that triggering regime change lurks behind Cameron's yearning to intervene," he says.

'Bursting to intervene'

In the Daily Mail, Max Hastings also questions Mr Cameron's motives.

"Cameron has been bursting to intervene in Syria for many months," he writes.

"He may well believe it is the right thing to do, but does he also hope such an action will enable him to show off his leadership on a great international issue?"

Fraser Nelson in the Telegraph gives some thought to where the Mr Cameron of old has gone.

"Long before the debate, a young Tory pointed out that the problem with intervention in the past had been the rush. The West, he said, has 'two crucial qualities which should always condition foreign policy-making: humility and patience'. That young Tory was David Cameron, seven years ago," he writes.

"Even in February 2011 he said he was 'not a naive neo-con who thinks you can drop democracy out of an aeroplane at 40,000 feet'. Yet since then, he came to place great faith in the 'bombs and missiles' that he used to disparage. And he failed to realise how little support he had."

Peace campaigner outsider Parliament MPs rejected possible UK military action against Syria by a vote of 285-272

The Guardian calls the prime minister's defeat "an almost unprecedented failure".

"The prospective missile attack on Syria is not a foreign policy moment on a par with the Suez war in 1956, the Norway debate of 1940 or Chanak in 1922, all of which led to the fall of 20th Century prime ministers," it says, in an editorial.

"But it was a massive reverse nevertheless. It is a reminder that things are different in hung parliaments and that Mr Cameron's control of his party has been seriously weakened."

Andy Boddington, writing in the Lib Dem Voice blog, wonders, if this is the moment when "we stop believing we are a world power".

"At long last we, or at least our parliament, believe that we cannot bomb our way to peace. This could be the point where we believe our best interests, and those of the world, lie in using our financial and political resources to promote a world that works without war."

'None of our business'

But former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown fears the Commons defeat can only do damage to the UK.

"We are a hugely diminished country thi [sic] am. MPs cheers last night. Assad, Putin this morning. Farage too as we plunge towards isolationism," he writes on Twitter, sparking a big online debate.

He later adds: "In 50 years trying to serve my country I have never felt so depressed [or] ashamed. Britain's answer to the Syrian horrors? none of our business!"

For the Independent, the result of the vote is a victory for the institution of Parliament itself.

"Parliament, so often bemoaned as a whipped and weak talking shop, proved that, when faced with the gravest of decisions, it can still call the executive to heel," it says, in an editorial.

House of Commons Some say the result was a victory for Parliament itself

Conservative MP Douglas Carswell who admits to "reluctantly" voting with the government at the last minute, agrees.

Writing in his Telegraph blog, he says: "For decades, our country has been run by a tiny, self-regarding mandarinate in Whitehall. Not for much longer. Parliament is now claiming powers that, thanks to a historic quirk, have given Downing Street the powers of a monarch.

"Instead of a presidential system, perhaps our prime minister might once again be first among equals. Of the cabinet, and commanding a majority in the Commons. But not in control of it."

'Damaging blow'

After the vote, Mr Cameron said he would respect the wishes of the majority and rule out joining US-led strikes. So where does that leave President Barack Obama and the UK's relations with the US?

The Independent's Washington correspondent David Usborne suggests it may prove to be a "damaging blow to the so-called special relationship that Britain in particular is always so anxious to emphasise and nurture".

He says Mr Obama now appears "more isolated in the world", and possibly facing "emboldened" congressional critics.

In the US, the Washington Post says analysts are calling it "the biggest rupture in the special relationship since the 1982 Falklands War".

And the New York Times describes the vote and Mr Cameron's pledge to honour it as "a blow" to President Obama.

"Like nearly all presidents since the Vietnam War, he has relied on Britain to be shoulder-to-shoulder with Washington in any serious military or security engagement," it says.

It says the defeat is a sign of Mr Cameron's weakness and "a measure of Britain's increasing isolation from its allies - both inside the European Union and now with Washington".

But TV chatshow host Piers Morgan, a Briton living in America, says the Commons defeat is unlikely to worry his adopted country.

"I think UK commentators are rather overdoing the 'crushing blow to special relationship' line, America will do what it wants, as always," he tweets.

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