Westminster, and the world, has been rocked and shaken by the devastating terrorist attacks in Paris a week ago. The impact of the attacks will reverberate for some time to come, and has prompted questions for the European community about border controls, radicalisation and the breadth and depth of cross-border intelligence capabilities.
The events of a week ago will have an irreversible impact on politics at home too, with the tragedy shining a light on the UK’s own counter-terrorism resources and raising the question once again of British strikes in Syria. Coming in the final stages of negotiations for the Spending Review next week, there’s no doubt that the events in Paris strengthen the hands of both the Defence and Home Secretaries, who have both called for reduced funding cuts in the wake of the attacks.
On the much thornier issue of Syrian air-strikes, the Prime Minister is playing it carefully. There is no doubt that the Government’s plan is to force a new vote on UK action in Syria, but the PM is not giving the impression that he will rush into action. After the humiliating Parliamentary vote against air-stirkes in 2013, David Cameron needs to be certain he can take Parliament with him.
Despite public appearances however, it is understood that the PM will seek a vote relatively quickly – potentially in the next fortnight – and the Government believes around 50 Labour members would vote in favour of action. MPs close to Cameron are taking soundings across the House and the Defence Secretary’s team is said to be doing the same. Reportedly, these efforts are not quite as joined up as they could be but overall it’s a more delicate approach, and one that’s born from past failure.
Ultimately, convincing Parliament to back strikes in Syria will be the easy bit. The intervention itself will be far from simple.