Tag Archives: foreign policy

How much should the Lib Dems focus on UK foreign policy?

I once used the phrase ‘No-one is going to vote Lib Dem because of our policy on Azimstana’. The point is an obvious one; surveys show us that the average British voter is more concerned about domestic issues such as health, education, welfare, employment, immigration and crime. Understandably so.

However, there are three very good reasons why, notwithstanding, we need to invest time in foreign policy, international relations and the global economy.

First, UK foreign policy does from time to time come to the fore in the mind of the voting public and we have to be on top of the issues, …

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Baroness Liz Barker writes: The Tory threat to UK foreign policy

Lynne Featherstone and Lindsay Northover were outstanding DfID Ministers. During their tenure, with the support of Liberal Democrats in both houses, and throughout the party, for the first time,  radical commitments such as an to end Female Genital Mutilation by 30% by 2018 were included in UK Government policy.  Furthermore, those Liberal Democrat ministers, insisted that commitments to the rights of LGBT people and people with disabilities be central to FCO and DfID policy and programmes.

They did so, not just because of our unshakeable commitment to human rights, but because the UK’s unique history with the Commonwealth nations and relationships with European partners, give an unparalleled position from which to be an influence for good in the world.

This summer, the UK government has an opportunity to attend the 2016 Global LGBTI Human Rights Conference,  which will be co-hosted by the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Government of Uruguay. It will involve the main international donors who support and fund LGBTI programmes.  It is a rare opportunity for the UK government to leverage the political commitment of the coalition government by involving other governments,  and the private sector,  in developing good practice guidance on funding, supporting NGOs to bring about change on difficult subjects. 

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Hawks and doves: equidistant foreign policy?

Five years ago, the Liberal Democrats held the centre ground in the coalition formation negotiations between left and right. Equidistance is a loaded word, one that cynics will laugh at as vacuous. However, five years later, neither of the two main parties seem sufficiently interested in foreign affairs.

This party could be equidistant between doves and hawks in foreign policy. To illustrate the dove-hawk twin hybrid, below are three examples. I am not necessarily endorsing the following as solutions and they are not exhaustive in terms of detail. They are merely prompts for a debate.

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Hannah Bettsworth’s speech to the Liberal Democrat Voice fringe meeting at Conference

20th Sep 2015 conference LDV fringeOne of the highlights of Conference for me was the Liberal Democrat Voice fringe meeting. We wanted to do something a bit more serious this year and, as foreign policy is a key interest of several of our team members, we decided to discuss how we forged a liberal foreign policy in these challenging times. What is liberal interventionism all about.

We are extremely grateful to our four speakers. Baroness Julie Smith stepped in at the very last minute so we especially appreciate her thoughtful contribution. We also heard from Lord William Wallace, from our Lords Foreign Affairs team, Nick Tyrone, now at British Influence, and Hannah Bettsworth, President of Liberal Youth Scotland, who specialises in international relations and has as special interest in gender mainstreaming, ensuring that the interests of women and girls are considered in every aspect of policy development.

Hannah’s speech was described by one member of the audience as one of the best on foreign policy he’d heard in a long time, so we thought it might be a good idea to reproduce it here. Hannah wants to credit Tim Oliver for his help and advice in pulling it together. Enjoy.

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Opinion: We need meaningful discourse on Trident, not playground politics

I have spent much of the campaign so far wondering when issues of foreign policy would be discussed. This open question soon morphed into a desperate cry for someone, anyone to talk about what goes on beyond the shores of these islands and what Britain can or should do about those events. The 7-way debate that we were graced with by ITV proved to be as devoid of these questions as the rest of the campaign, for even when issues such as immigration floated in, they were stripped of an international context.

So it was that I had essentially resigned myself to a campaign devoid of hard questions about big problems, until today’s news headlines sparked a moment of hope. Trident had risen from the depths to push itself, and surely with it bigger questions about Britain, onto the agenda. At last, I could have almost cried, we can have the debate!

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LibLink … Tim Farron: The Conservatives are underplaying our hand in Europe

Tim Farron speaking - Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsJust before conference Tim Farron posted on Huffington Post on a totally different subject – Conservative foreign policy.

He writes:

The Russia-Ukraine conflict, and the deterioration of human rights in Russia should be a key concern of all our political parties. If we are to stem the violence in Ukraine, we need a strong and united Europe, as much as we need wise thinking from the US and other players. But I am concerned that the Conservative leadership is crippled by an overblown and insecure fear of Ukip. We are punching below our weight in Europe. Cameron is in danger of putting party politics above peace in Ukraine and Europe – and our national interests.

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Opinion: Ethical Foreign Policy

 

At a dinner in London last week to celebrate David Steel’s 50 years in Parliament Nick Clegg congratulated David on his internationalism and talked at length about the importance of our Party being the champion of internationalism and human rights.

In his final conference speech Nick said “we will stand up for tolerance, decency and fairness” but this was put in a domestic context.  Hopefully we will soon hear an election speech from Nick offering a Lib Dem foreign policy that will clearly differentiate us from the Tories and from the policies of the Blair/Brown years.

This is the speech I would like to see Nick deliver about ethical foreign policy:

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Clegg and Wallace highlight need for Lib Dem approach to foreign policy and criticise Conservative coalition partners

There’s a fair bit of “differentiation” in the air at the moment. Last week we had Norman Baker’s resignation over difference in Home Office policy. Yesterday both Nick Clegg and Foreign Office Minister Lord William Wallace took time to highlight the fundamental differences in approach between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to international affairs.

First, more casually, on his Call Clegg phone-in, Nick had a good go at the Tories on international development after Philip Hammond’s comments in opposition to Michael Moore’s Private Member’s Bill which aims to enshrine the 0.7% aid target in law:

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Opinion: China and Hong Kong – a missed opportunity

Last weekend marked the 15th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong. On a torrentially wet evening on 30 June 1997, the UK relinquished control of a territory which was home to almost seven million people and one of Asia’s leading commercial centres.

It also marked the end of the most colossal missed opportunity to further Chinese democracy.

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Opinion: Foreign policy lessons for the Lib Dem approach to Iran

The Green movement in Iran after the presidential elections in 2009 was the first of the recent popular backlashes against entrenched corruption in authoritarian regimes. That was followed by the Arab spring, continuing upheaval in Egypt and now a similar movement in Russia and elsewhere.

At the time of the electoral protests in Tehran, Iranian staff at the British embassy were being accused by the Iranian authorities of treason and fomenting unrest. There was only muted support for the reform movement in Iran from the international community.

Last month we saw the British Embassy in Tehran ransacked and vandalised

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Last call for entries: Speechwriting competition – can the right words fend off protestors?

Writing speeches with Paddy Ashdown sometimes happened at difficult times, like when we’d spent weeks preparing his announcement that he would run for the leadership in 1988 – only for it to dawn on us that we’d have to produce another one for the next day, then another, followed by almost a speech a day for the next three weeks.

Nor was it much fun when the party was at 4% in the opinion polls or, and this was probably the most difficult one of all, working on his first speech as High Representative to the parliament of Bosnia Herzegovina.

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