Starmer’s Labour offers genuine hope of restoring Britain’s credibility in the world

by Rob Marchant

General elections tend to focus on bread-and-butter domestic issues that affect voters directly. But what would a Labour government look like in terms of its relations with the rest of the world?

Britain’s reputation in the world is surely poorer than it has been for decades – not because it is seen as bad by its neighbours and allies, but because it is looked at with a kind of sad sympathy, as you would a friend who had recently committed an act of self-harm and had not yet turned the corner into recovery. The UK is fundamentally liked and admired abroad more than some cynics might think, but these days it is rather in spite of the Tories than because of them. In particular, the premierships of Johnson and Truss have hardly worked wonders for the credibility of British governments abroad.

At such a time, Labour has a huge advantage, as in some other policy areas, of being able to make major, positive changes, by dint of simply not being the Tories, and therefore not hidebound by Tory obsessions, such as being triggered by any mention of, well, that great continent of which Britain’s landmass forms a part.

Whether or not you agreed with Britain leaving the EU – and most of the country, for better or worse, no longer thinks it was a good idea – in 2024, the country is clearly not ready to rejoin and neither is the party – wisely – positing this as something they will look to deliver. After all, they are not even elected yet, and self-evidently need not to scare the horses and put at that risk. But we are looking to file off some of Brexit’s sharp corners with some simple and specific pledges.

Where the manifesto says “new trade agreements”, it seems to be talking about sensible, focused measures with existing partners, rather than of the Tory-style, “the government announces a terrific new trade deal with Lichtenstein” variety.

For example, exporters of many kinds of perishable goods have been for the last two-and-a-half years been subject to pointless veterinary checks on every load, causing delays and increased costs which have harmed their business; checks which Labour will seek to remove. Neither will they have Britain commit reputational hara-kiri by putting it outside the European Convention on Human Rights, something that only the despotic regimes of Russia and Belarus have managed since its inception.

A major area which requires a high level of international coordination is Miliband’s familiar hobby-horse of the environment and clean energy; while one might speculate on the practicality of his grand schemes, at least Labour will not be beholden to the cranky climate-change deniers of the Tory right.

There are also obvious, yet unspoken, points in the increasingly-risky geopolitical environment of the 2020s: unlike the present government, a Labour one will not be open to influence from Russian oligarch money, sent to party coffers via naturalised Russians in order to circumnavigate the law on foreign donations. And it will not have an inadequate response to threats of Chinese meddling in our politics, as the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee found last year, not forgetting the current Foreign Secretary’s one-time chumminess with President Xi.

Labour is, unlike in its first decade of opposition after 2010, entirely solid on defence. Miliband cannot claim the same, after his unstinting criticism of the interventionism of the Blair/Brown years (despite its unequivocal successes in Kosovo and Sierra Leone), and one honestly wonders how hard he would have pushed back against either Putin or ISIS, had he won in 2015. Neither should we forget the unmitigated fiasco that was the 2013 Syria vote. And as for the latent Putin apologism and gritted-teeth acceptance of NATO membership that came with the Corbyn years, well, the less said about that, the better.

The odd thing is, that the Conservatives – supposed party of strong defence – have not only made our country look foolish on the world stage, but have performed an abysmal stewardship of our armed forces over fourteen years, right back to Cameron’s disastrous slashing of our defence capability during his first term in office, the biggest cuts since WWII.

In short, Starmer’s Labour is shaping up to make a far better fist of defence and foreign affairs than the Tories can claim to have done over the last fourteen years. Not to mention than either of his two immediate predecessors as leader.

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour party manager who blogs at The Centre Left

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One Response to “Starmer’s Labour offers genuine hope of restoring Britain’s credibility in the world”

  1. John p Reid says:

    Values ?labours only doing well in Scotland due to SNp collapse

    France just ignored European laws Attlee was sceptical of EHRC snd we don’t get fined
    Freedom of association sssembly doesn’t apply to police joining political parties The Army is exempt from right to life corporate manslaughter law and we scrapped thd abolition of double jeopardy to retry those cleared of a crime so we’ve never supporting TheECRH in the first place

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