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A Government worth having: Foreign policy

As part of our Government worth having series we asked a few friends of ConservativeHome to offer 100 word thoughts on how the Conservatives might make some ground on foreign policy.

Alan Mendoza, Executive Director of The Henry Jackson Society: With Labour heading down the route of international irrelevance, Conservatives should have the courage to explore where to stand on:

  1. ‘Hard’ and ‘soft’ power – As Joseph Nye, author of Soft Power, acknowledges, both variants should be used in tandem. We must therefore be prepared to move beyond diplomacy if it fails to deliver results, and to equip our armed services for such endeavours.
  2. Idealism versus realism – William Hague has stressed ideas such as human rights and democracy, but it unclear whether these or other goals outlined, such as improving relations with autocratic allies in the Middle East, will dominate.
  3. Traditional multilateralism or coalitions of the willing – The UN has repeatedly failed to resolve major international crises. A Conservative government should therefore be in the vanguard of coalitions circumventing the vetoes of non-democracies shielding dictators and rogue regimes.

Gary Streeter MP, former Chairman of the Party's International Office: Whilst remaining a steadying whisper in the ear of Uncle Sam, we should carve out our unique British brand of soft power with a hard edge.  We should make the promotion of good governance and democracy building the centre ground of our policy. Diplomacy, aid and know-how, backed up by the excellence of our armed forces, should be our instruments.

We should shift at least £100 million from the aid budget to pour into robust democracy building programmes, especially in the Commonwealth. British aid should be more closely linked to foreign policy and should be withdrawn where a recipient country government falls short. We should be champions for the reform of multi-lateral organisations including the EU and UN.

Nile Gardiner, Director of the Thatcher Center for Freedom: A Conservative government should embark upon a major renegotiation of treaties with the European Union. If Cameron does so he will be remembered as a leader who changed the course of British history and reasserted Britain's place as an independent nation state. A Cameron administration must also be prepared to reverse years of defence cuts that threaten to cripple Britain's hugely overstretched armed services, currently suffering from the lowest levels of defence spending since the 1930s. It must work to strengthen the Anglo-American Special Relationship, a unique partnership between two great nations that has been considerably weakened under Gordon Brown. The world needs a Britain that is more powerful, self-confident, and in control of her own destiny, and for the next prime minister these must be top priorities.

Edward Macmillan-Scott MEP, longest-serving member of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee: Russia and China are leading a democracy backlash among the world’s autocracies, some - like Iran - linked through their Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.  It is their response to the ‘colour’ revolutions (rose in Georgia, orange in Ukraine etc).

Our prime care is Russia because it is near and nuclear and uses its energy weapon ruthlessly; China because it is a terror state of immense economic and strategic potential. Let’s not sneer at Sarkozy’s use of the EU to shake up the Med and Middle East, let’s use it too.

We need to turn David Miliband’s pro-democracy rhetoric into action with a cross-party Platform for Democracy. The Bush era gave democracy promotion a bad name: soon we can work together again, and let’s add human rights to the mix.

Ben Rogers, Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Human Rights Commission: William Hague has said more than once that human rights would be “at the very heart of foreign policy”. David Cameron has spoken out on Darfur and Burma, and met with North Korean dissidents. Now it is time to put some meat on the bones. There are three major policies a Conservative Government should commit to:

  1. Reform of the UN – and the establishment of a League of Democracies, as proposed by US Presidential candidate John McCain
  2. Support for mechanisms such as the International Criminal Court, to bring dictators like Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and the Burmese Generals to justice, following the prosecution of Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir.
  3. Reform of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to strengthen and improve efforts to promote international human rights and democracy.

The Conservatives in opposition are making the running on human rights, to the surprise of many. We must translate that into government.

Previous article in this series: A Government worth having needs to increase economic growth


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