by Paul Goodman
I've glanced back at the Prime Minister's Commons statement on Monday about Libya, and found the following:
- Richard Ottoway asked whether defence co-operation with Gaddafi was misjudged.
- Edward Leigh demanded no further cuts in the Royal Navy.
- James Arbuthnot asked about Hamas's refusal to hold elections in Gaza.
- John Baron inquired what effect support for democracy would have on our autocratic allies in the region.
- Tobias Ellwood asked about mercenaries sent by African governments to support Gaddafi.
- David Tredinnick wanted to know about planning for regime change.
- Tony Baldry said that Gaddafi should be referred to the International Criminal Court.
- Bill Cash urged arming the resistance.
- Robert Halfon attacked the LSE for taking Gaddafi's money.
- James Gray said that contractors should make better plans for evacuations.
These were all fair questions. But I'm struck on reading them by one that was missing.
David Cameron did nothing to discourage speculation, raging that day, that Britain would play a part in military operations against Gaddafi – including the imposition of a no fly zone (which Labour's Mike Gapes referred to).
It's striking that not a single backbench question tried to pin down Cameron on the matter, ask how a British contribution to a no fly zone or other intervention would work; how it might be affected by the coming defence spending scaleback – and, above all, how we could avoid being further drawn in.
Today's news is that the Government's backing off military intervention, and the media's beginning to ask questions about how it would work. What can we glean from the fact that no Member of Parliament did so? (Though Tredinnick deserves a mention in dispatches for coming closest.)