David Blackburn

A new foreign policy?

A new foreign policy?
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An inventive article from Ben Brogan this morning, arguing that a new vigorously Tory foreign policy is emerging. I can be a little slow sometimes, but I haven’t noticed anything new or Tory about Britain’s foreign policy.

Brogan records that the Prime Minister has let it be known that British troops will withdraw from Afghanistan by 2015. Cameron said nothing of the sort; he said he wanted British troops out of Afghanistan by 2015, something quite different. Contrary to expectations, relations with Europe are flourishing under the coalition, as pragmatic government has superseded bellicose opposition. William Hague hopes to influence the EU closely. In a speech today, he will attempt to demarcate his stance from the previous government’s; but the previous government was very active in Europe. For reasons known only to themselves, Gordon Brown and David Miliband implanted Cathy Ashton as EU foreign minister; and Brown was successful in the simple task of convincing European governments of the need for stimulus in 2008; before that, expansion was Blair's pet-project. Likewise, Britain’s relationship with America remains close, though perhaps less fawning on our part – how much that has to do with the Gulf oil disaster remains to be seen. Finally, Brogan doesn’t mention the Middle East, but Hague’s and Miliband’s condemnations of the Gaza flotilla killings were almost verbatim. In terms of homeland security, the government has renewed the 28 day detention period for a further six months pending review.  

Continuity is unsurprising: the government has only been in power for 7 weeks. As Yes Minister had it: diplomacy is about surviving for 200 years. Politics is about surviving till next Tuesday.

PS: The rest of Brogan’s article castigates what he contemptuously terms the ‘Binyam Brigade’. He is outraged that the security services are accountable, and invokes the lie that international security services no longer trust Britain with information. This is extremely muddled. First, not even the jumpy Americans have stopped sharing intelligence with Britain. Second, if foreign policy is values based, which Brogan thinks it must be, then the agents of that policy must be accountable to those values and their concurrent judicial process. Binyam Mohammed deserves a fair hearing and the spooks must be investigated. That does not ‘make room for extremists’, as Brogan claims it does, it merely shields the individual from the omnipotent state. This is a core British value, an inalienable right. Like Brogan, I’m confident that the security services will be exonerated; then the law can address the more pertinent issue of what Binyam Mohammed was doing in an Afghan madrassa in the aftermath of 9/11.