I’ve been reporting from Parliament for some years now, and an event I’ll never forget is the 2003 debate on whether the UK should join the US in invading Iraq.
There were strong views on both sides.
Just the day before, Robin Cook, a former Foreign Secretary, had resigned from the Cabinet and stated his intention to vote against the invasion.
The case in favour of invasion was made by Tony Blair, the Prime Minister at the time.
As he set out his argument, Mr Blair was interrupted by backbench MPs who wanted to ask questions or offer their thoughts.
Critics included Jeremy Corbyn, a backbencher in those days, who asked Mr Blair if he had considered the danger of Turkey taking advantage of the situation to launch an attack of their own, “to invade the northern part of Iraq and destroy the Kurdish autonomous region”.
The Commons voted to back the invasion, a decision almost everyone now agrees was a mistake.
But MPs made their choice after an intelligent debate.
Mr Blair kicked things off at 12.35 in the afternoon. Many MPs had the chance to speak before a vote took place at 10pm.
They set out their arguments without resorting to personal attacks, or suggesting fellow MPs were acting in bad faith.
The invasion was to be led by the US. And some of Mr Blair’s critics in the media, and protesters in the streets outside, liked to claim that Mr Blair was US President George Bush’s “poodle”, and took orders from the White House.
But you didn’t hear that type of talk in the Commons.
When Mr Corbyn disagreed with Mr Blair, for example, he did it by raising serious concerns about how other countries in the region might respond.
There was a stark contrast when MPs debated the Government’s decision to join the US and France in attacking the regime in Syria this week.
Theresa May told the House of Commons: “We have not done this because President Trump asked us to; we have done it because we believed it was the right thing to do.”
But some MPs didn’t believe her, or, at least, feigned not to.
Laura Smith, Labour MP for Crewe and Nantwich, mocked the Prime Minister. She said: “Among those of us who have been trying to follow President Trump’s tweets over the past week, I cannot be the only person who has found it extremely difficult to keep track of whether he was for military action or against military action.
“So I wonder whether the Prime Minister can tell us at what point the President instructed her that military action would be taken?”
Mrs May looked furious, and maybe that was the goal.
But was it a serious question? Does Ms Smith really believe that at some point Donald Trump “instructed” Mrs May in what action the UK should take?
If she did, why present this extremely serious charge in such a mocking and sarcastic manner, complaining that she found it hard to follow Mr Trump’s tweets?
Perhaps some people would ask whether it really matters what a backbench MP says. It’s worth remembering though that Ms Smith represents 78,845 people and is paid £77,379 a year to do so.
She wasn’t alone. Mr Corbyn accused Mrs May of acting “to the whims of the US President”, a far cry from the tone he adopted in 2003.
Some Tories were no better.
Gareth Johnson, Conservative MP for Dartford, suggested Mr Corbyn was more loyal to Syria than to the UK, saying: “It is therefore hardly surprising that some people question whose side he is on – theirs or ours?”
Mr Johnson was rightly told off by the Speaker.
And the debate on Monday ended at 11pm with the SNP demanding a vote, knowing full well that Labour MPs were not around to take part.
It meant the Commons voted on a motion that simply stated: “That this House has considered the current situation in Syria and the UK Government’s approach.”
In other words, the vote didn’t mean anything. The SNP did it purely to make Labour MPs look bad, and allow themselves to say they are the real opposition to the Tories.
Some people might say that this is just politics. Game-playing has always gone on in Parliament.
That’s true, but when dealing with hugely important issues such as military action, Parliament has tended to rise to the occasion.
It didn’t this time.