British Prime Minister David Cameron may recall parliament at the end of either next week or the week after to seek approval for air strikes against terrorist organisation ISIS. The delay in bringing MPs back is to ensure the debate does not clash with either Labour or Conservative conference, but it could mean that the UK Independence Party’s is badly overshadowed.
The Times Red Box reports: “Although a recall of parliament is ruled out this week, MPs will be summoned back either at the end of next week, after the Labour conference, or the week after, following the Tory gathering, to approve military action.”
Both Labour and the Conservatives are meeting at the beginning of the weeks, whereas UKIP meets at the end. Labour will run their annual get together in Manchester from 21st to 24th September, and the Conservatives are in Birmingham from 28th September to 1st October. Both of these are Sunday to Wednesday, meaning that parliament could be recalled on the Thursday or Friday without affecting the two big parties.
UKIP are meeting in Doncaster on Thursday 25th September and Friday 26th. It now looks likely this will be at the same time as the debate, which will garner enormous media coverage. Any other events at the same time as the debate – including UKIP conference – would suffer.
Parliament is now on recess for four weeks. In theory could meet at any point during this period as there are no rules against parliament recalls clashing with other major events. Scheduling debates and avoiding clashes are at the discreation of the government and the Speaker of the House, John Bercow.
Given the knife-edge vote in Scotland it would be impossible to meet before the polls close there. It is considered unacceptable to announce major new policies during elections or referenda. Also the Scottish Nationalists have attacked the UK for being militaristic, so anything that could compound this allegation would be damaging to the pro-union campaign.
Whilst it may be cynical to suggest that the recall is being intentionally timed to scupper UKIP’s plans, it is clear the party has not been given the same consideration as Labour or the Tories. The problem for UKIP leader Nigel Farage is that any formal complaint against the date of the debate would be seen as putting party before country: something that would be particularly politically toxic for UKIP.
The recall of parliament is deemed vital after the murder David Haines by crazed ISIS extremists, who have also threatened to kill another British aid worker. Although David Cameron has claimed to be keeping his options open, his tough rhetoric on ISIS has effectively guaranteed that military action is the only option.
The Prime Minister is said to have been burnt by the vote against air stikes in Syria last year, which he lost after a significant backbench rebellion. But his caution may well be misplaced as a number of senior backbenchers have expressed unease about the slow pace of action against ISIS. It is also well known that a number of MPs who opposed action against Syria would support the bombing of ISIS.
This conference season will be important for all the political parties as they are the last big get togethers before the general election next year. Each party will want to show case their candidates, and announce major policies.