On some levels David Cameron’s statement to the Commons lowered the scale of the tragedy in Algeria and the level of diplomatic friction with the Algiers government.

The number of UK citizens unaccounted for is lower than once feared (“significantly lower” than the “up to 30″ once feared) and the PM acknowledged that the Algerian government had “disappointed” him by going ahead with an attack on the jihadists without prior notice but wanted to “show understanding” for the situation the government had to deal with.

This could be an attempt to make sure that relations with Algeria don’t deteriorate at a time when the government wants their co-operation to deal with the aftermath of the hostage-taking.

On another level, much bigger issues were thrown up by Mr Cameron’s description of the great “ungoverned space” in the region and the “large existential threat” that represents.

It begs all sorts of questions about where UK and other western involvement in the region might go, especially if al-Qaeda sympathisers looked like posing any sort of threat to Nigeria. Watch this ungoverned space.