United Kingdom

With Syria Vote, British Parliament Reclaims Power from Prime Minister

Hint, hint, Congress


What a momentous day for British democracy. The era of presidential rule is over. Parliament has reclaimed the powers chipped away by successive prime ministers, culminating with Tony Blair and the hegemony of spin. It has even snatched some powers it never had, beyond control of the purse.

There can be no going to war on executive authority alone, or by Royal Prerogative. Britain's living Constitution has been refashioned before our eyes, in seven hours of exhilarating debate. Much of world's political class watched the debate unfold, riveted by the clash of moral argument. Has anything quite like it been seen since the Bulgarian Atrocities of 1876?

Whether David Cameron is down, or Ed Miliband is up, is essentially trivial. The Government handled the crisis badly, of course, no doubt pressured by Washington for premature action for reasons of military imperative. Assad is dispersing his targets. Every day counts. But this is the Schlieffen Plan reflex. You cannot let railway timetables dictate great power diplomacy.