Internationalism, a movement advocating greater economic and political cooperation among nations for the benefit of all, has been a strong tradition within the Labour party from the beginning. Our values and ideals have always looked beyond our shores and have contributed to influencing and shaping Britain’s role in an increasingly interdependent world.
We have a record that we can be proud of. We supported the establishment of the League of Nations in the inter-war years. We backed Indian independence and de-colonisation around the world. We campaigned against apartheid in South Africa. The last Labour Government tripled aid, cancelled debt and rescued the global economy. The recent enshrining of 0.7% into law is something that Labour championed in government, paving the way for that commitment to be honoured after we left office.
In recent times, a lot has been written and debated about the Labour party’s international posture and perspectives since the Iraq war – and what a future government led by Ed Milliband would prioritise.
This debate will take centre stage tonight at an event hosted by the Labour Campaign for International Development, LabourList, and twenty partners from across the Labour movement, to discuss the next Labour Government’s internationalist vision.
Chaired by Mary Riddell, the panel will include Douglas Alexander MP, Mary Creagh MP, Caroline Flint MP and Ian Lucas MP. The panel will be asked: how can Britain once again become a progressive powerhouse, leading global efforts for a more equal, safer, and more prosperous world?
Shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander has made the case for a ‘progressive internationalism.’ These words will sit easily with many on the left. But what does this mean in reality? Ed Miliband’s idea of ‘responsible capitalism’, for example, can begin to shape this progressive agenda but it can only be achieved on a global scale, broadening the way the global system is governed, focused on cooperation between countries.
Ed Miliband and Mary Creagh gave speeches this month outlying a future Labour Government’s commitment to combating extreme poverty, inequality and climate change. Miliband said: “More than ever Britain and the world need leadership on tackling poverty, inequality and climate change. This is about ensuring the next generation can do better than the last in this country and around the world.” These words reflect the ideals of a progressive internationalist agenda and will be welcomed by many campaigners and activists in this important year for tackling global poverty and combating climate change. But what will they mean in practice? How will Labour make this gear-change?
These words will also, we hope, chime on the doorstep in the year that Britain goes to the polls. We know that the British media and the public are sometimes critical of Britain’s overseas aid commitments. So it may not feel politically advantageous for Labour to commit to end poverty and inequality in the world.
But Labour must be ready to take strong and sometimes controversial positions based on the principles and the tradition of internationalism and solidarity within the party. And there are plenty of potential voters – in the diaspora, young people, students, faith groups – for whom this matters.
In his tribute at Nelson’s Mandela’s funeral in 2013, President Obama’s challenge to the world was this: “There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality.”
The Labour party should listen to these words.
On Monday night you can come and listen to the men and women who will be leading the next Labour Government’s global agenda and reshaping Britain’s role in the world, driven by collectivism, solidarity and social justice.
Numbers are limited, so please RSVP by clicking here – bit.ly/LabourWorld and follow updates on Twitter using #LabourWorld.
Joe Walker is Vice Chair of policy for Labour Campaign for International Development