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Hague MkII writes a more cautious Conservative foreign policy

Hague On Sky Later today Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague will use a speech to the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London to set out key components of Tory foreign policy.  Extracts appear in The Guardian and Telegraph:

British national interest should guide foreign policy: "Foreign policy is above all about the protection and promotion of our national interest, and even narrowly defined, the British national interest requires our continued fully active engagement in world affairs."

Economic renewal is necessary for a strong British presence in the world: "Economic success makes a big difference to foreign policy influence and sometimes quite quickly so. One of the damaging effects of Gordon Brown's catastrophic stewardship of Britain's finances, and of additionally reducing Britain from second to twelfth place in the international league of competitiveness according to the World Economic Forum, is the diminishing of our economic power and by extension the effectiveness of our international role."

Greater engagement with China: "If we believe that the spread of nuclear weapons and the urgency of dealing with climate change are the greatest threats to the future of humanity, we must acknowledge that we cannot hope to solve these problems without working closely with China's leaders."

Like Obama's America, Hague wants to "reset" relations with Russia: ""With a Conservative government the door will be open to improved relations with Russia. We shall see if a door opens in return."

"Realpolitik"* returns: "Idealism must always be tempered with realism – even those countries like many of the Gulf states, which are making democratic reforms, will do so at varying paces and sometimes over an extended period."

Afghanistan: "We believe our political objectives in Afghanistan should be tightly drawn and regularly reviewed, and that ever greater priority needs to be attached to the role of the Afghan forces."

The speech should be interesting.  Up until now Conservative foreign policy has been cautious.  Some key observations:

  • Behind-the-scenes Mr Hague has been working with Dr Liam Fox to protect Trident from spending cuts.
  • Mr Hague's reputation is as a staunch Eurosceptic but Hague MkII is very different from the Hague MkI of 2001 and the 'Keep The Pound' campaign.  The former Tory leader is now much more cautious on European policy - privately referring to it as a ticking bomb that is best not moved very much for fear of causing internal party tensions. 
  • He has also retreated from his previous enthusiastic support for the Iraq war.  He made one of the most enthusiastic speeches for the war in 2003 but has since opposed General Petraeus' successful surge of troops and supported the Baker-Hamilton plan of negotiating directly with Tehran.
  • A greater interest in the Commonwealth.  This shift reached its most practical expression last week when Andrew Mitchell promised a redirection of UK aid policy towards Commonwealth states.
  • The move towards a more humble foreign policy has been crafted jointly with David Cameron's Chief of Staff, Ed Llewellyn.  The hawks in the shadow cabinet - George Osborne, Michael Gove, Liam Fox, Philip Hammond and Theresa Villiers - are heavily outnumbered.
Tim Montgomerie

* The Guardian quotes aides to Hague as using the word.

6.30pm Full text of Hague speech.


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