Last summer, parliament was recalled after President Assad’s forces used chemical weapons in Syria. David Cameron wanted the Commons to support air strikes against the Syrian regime in response. But the Commons refused, defeating the government motion.
Whatever you thought of the decision, it was a bold move by MPs. They had demonstrated that even on matters of war and peace, the traditional preserves of the executive, they were prepared to stand athwart the Prime Minister.
The decision changed Western foreign policy, but not perceptions of parliament. Almost a year on, the public are still cynical about the institution and MPs remain deeply unsure of the worth of what they are doing. The decision of so many departing ministers to announce that they are standing down as MPs at the next election suggests that they don’t see the point of being in the Commons if they are not also in government.
This all makes me wonder, as I say in the column this week, if only a constitutional upheaval can reinvigorate parliament. The time might have come for a full separation of powers, removing the executive from the legislature and giving Parliament its own distinct identity and role. Thoughts in the comments please.