Impatient to launch airstrikes against Syrian regime targets in 2013, former Prime Minister David Cameron brushed aside the concerns of his own Conservative MPs to make the case for war, according to one senior Tory MP.
Parliament voted down Cameron’s plan to bomb forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, but later approved airstrikes against jihadist targets in December 2015.
Iain Duncan Smith, then-work and pensions secretary, told the Mirror there had been a “genuine undercurrent of unease” among cabinet ministers, but that major meetings were generally “stitched up” beforehand in line with Cameron’s hasty leadership style.
“There was a very clear plan so by the time it got to pond life like me there had been a very clear consensus stated and if you said something against it, it was not popular,” he said.
“I remember I asked a very simple question which didn’t get answered which is: ‘What does success look like? If you can just tell me what that looks like then at least I know we have an end point.’
“It was never answered. Because nobody quite knew what success was all about, because otherwise we might get sucked in,” Duncan Smith added.
His allegations echo some of the concerns raised in the Chilcot Inquiry into the 2003 Iraq War, which heavily criticized the leadership style of then-PM Tony Blair.
“For the most part actually Cabinet doesn’t do very much. Cabinet meets once a week and kind of rubber stamps what went on in the sub-committees that feed Cabinet,” Duncan Smith said.
“Quite a lot was the debates and arguments took place before you arrived in Cabinet.
“By and large it headed in the direction that was already agreed before unless there was massive dissent,” he said.
Duncan Smith claimed then-environment secretary Owen Paterson also raised objections.
“I remember Owen expressing misgivings – a number of people did which is unusual.
“But the policy remained the same, we went to a vote and we lost the vote. And I was uneasy about that rush to the vote, felt it was too quick, not enough logic,” he added