Last week Tim correctly identified that Conservative policies must have a clear moral purpose. A governing philosophy based on necessity alone is no basis for long term support.
This is just as true in our foreign policy as it is in domestic policy. The Conservative party has a proud history of charting a moral course in foreign affairs: defending the most vulnerable, combating tyrants and most importantly championing human rights. From Pitt to Churchill to Thatcher the UK has faced down authoritarianism and won.
William Hague took the helm at the FCO promising to reorientate British Foreign policy and to give it a more commercial focus and to repair Britain’s standing in the world. Both are worthy aims; for too long the foreign office has been an under-exploited resource in developing the British economy- the fact that Britain does more trade with Ireland than with any of the “BRIC” countries, is nothing short of a travesty. The arrogance of the Blair/Bush approach to international relations and allegations of complicity in torture make repairing our international standing a key priority.
But we must never allow these aims to detract from or dilute our commitment to human rights. Following the lead of Conservative Foreign Secretaries past, William Hague must take the lead in lobbying authoritarian regimes to respect the rule of law and uphold political and economic freedom. Today’s visit of the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergy Lavrov for bilateral talks provides a key opportunity to do this.