James Forsyth

The Tory task on foreign policy

The Tory task on foreign policy
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There has been a conspicuous silence from the Tories about David Miliband’s deeply mistaken piece in The Guardian yesterday. While there are not many votes in foreign policy for an opposition, it is vital that a party that wants to be a success in government uses its time out of office to work out its world view. So far, there’s insufficient evidence that the Tories have done this. David Cameron has developed impressive relationships with foreign leaders but the intellectual framework for Tory foreign policy, especially when it comes to the broader Middle East, is lacking.

Part of the problem is that there is no ideas infrastructure on the right when it comes to foreign policy; no think-tank on the right does work on it. This problem is compounded by the fact that the two frontline Tories with the most developed foreign policy world-views—Michael Gove and George Osborne—hold the two most important domestic policy portfolios and so can not be moved to bolster the foreign policy team. It also does not help that the shadow Foreign Secretary has had so much else on recently.

If the Tories don’t use this year to really ramp up their thinking on the subject they’ll be dragged along with the institutional thinking of the Foreign Office which, as the Miliband speech demonstrated, is deeply flawed. The Tories really need to develop a team of foreign policy SPADS who can put their stamp on foreign policy in the way that Brown’s advisers did on the economy during his stint at the Treasury.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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