By Peter Hoskin
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appears that the Syrian crisis has escalated to an important point: the West is
poised to sanction a military intervention. According to a report in today’s Sun
on Sunday (£), David Cameron and Barack Obama “thrashed out a masterplan”
during a phone conversation yesterday afternoon. “The most likely option,” it
notes, “is air strikes to wipe out Assad’s command and controls system.”
seems to me one of least complicated ways in which the West can intercede in
this horrible, extended conflict. As Camilla Cavendish suggests in the Sunday
Times (£), it hurts Assad without putting our military-issue weaponry in
the hands of some dodgy-issue terrorists. It doesn’t, however, promise a swift
end to the fighting.
what about Cameron’s Cabinet colleagues? What do they think? It’s worth reading
another article from today, this one by Anne McElvoy in
the Mail on Sunday. Although it doesn’t go into the specifics of air
strikes and weapons drops, it does give a sense of where various ministers
stand on Syria. Apparently, Michael Gove, George Osborne and William Hague are the
“leaders on the hawkish side”. Whereas, Philip Hammond and Theresa May belong
to the “dove faction”, urging caution.
names aren’t at all surprising: Gove has always been one of the Government’s
staunchest interventionists, whilst Hammond must have the defence
cuts embossed on his brain. But the groupings are worth noting, nonetheless.
Hammond and May belonged – along with Vince Cable, you’ll remember – to the National
Union of Ministers: those ministers who questioned the wisdom of cutting certain
departmental budgets whilst ring-fencing others. That they have found common
cause over Syria will only fuel the idea that they could form a “Top
Gear ticket” for the Tory leadership in future.
contrast between them and Gove, on Syria, is in some ways the contrast between May
and Boris that ConservativeHome’s
Andrew Gimson describes to David Wooding in the Sun on Sunday (£) today. On
one side, the abacus-minded cautioneers. On the other, a warrior of intellect
and ideology.* No wonder McElvoy, in her article, talks of manoeuvrings. May,
she’s told by one source, “has adopted a stance less to do with high-minded
affairs of international policy and more to do with attracting backbench
support for a future leadership bid.” Gove, says another, is “in full audition
mode for the Foreign Secretary’s job in a Tory second term”.
Syrian crisis has a significance way beyond the vagaries of British politics –
but, as today’s stories suggest, British politics will not be left unaffected by
it. The longer it goes on, the more potential it has to divide Tory from Tory.
And, as I’ve suggested
before, it could even affect the make-up of any future Coalition.
* Qualities also seen in Gove's attack on Ed Miliband and his "Militax" today.