The pitiful defence made this morning by George Osborne, that defeat is not defeat and that in offering Parliament a vote on the principle of military intervention David Cameron was showing statemanship, stands high in the chronicles of absurdity. The whistle was blown, the hoop held out, not very far from the ground, and the good old dog sat on his haunches and slowly shook his head.

As one of the admirable Tory opponents, Crispin Blunt, put it, our illusion has been that by instant deference to US wishes we function as a great power when we are not a great power. Blunt, an experienced diplomat, was joined by the likes of Adam Holloway, a former serving officer, in speaking a rational language alien to Labour and Conservative governments alike. They know something about realities, one of which is 'our standing in the world' and another 'our special relationship with the US'. The idea of subordination as greatness has been blown by Parliament responding to public opinion.