Labour’s challenge is to map out how to make real Britain’s influence in the world

Wayne David
© David Woolfall/CC BY 3.0

A new group of Labour Party members has been formed. It is called the Labour International Group (LIG). OK, you might think, yet another ‘group’ – so what? I would suggest that this group is of some significance.

The group is made up of MPs and peers, and has the participation of a number of important established Labour Party groups, such as the Labour Foreign Policy Group and the Labour Campaign for International Development.

The aims of the new group are: firstly, to help encourage informed discussions of foreign policy generally in the party, whether it be in parliament or in the party more widely; secondly, to counter the anti-western narrative of the far left, which simplistically sees so-called western imperialism as the root cause of all the world’s problems; thirdly, to help drive home the message that Labour is now firmly committed to policies which defend and promote Britain’s national interest rooted in Labour’s core values; and fourthly, to assist the party in developing its international links. It is sadly the case that Labour’s links with socialists and social democrats are nowhere near as strong as they should be – indeed, the relationships are now much weaker than they were in both the party’s early days and when Labour was in power. It is high time that Labour’s ‘internationalism’ is again made a reality.

The LIG will help the party reinforce its links with like-minded friends across the world, but especially in Europe. Keir Starmer and David Lammy’s visit to Berlin to meet the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, is a clear indication of how important Labour’s international relationships need to become. That is why the LIG is working closely with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and the German SPD to draw-up a practical programme aimed at developing international relationships and understanding through joint policy debates and discussions. Such links will be essential for an incoming Labour government if Labour is to maximise Britain’s positive influence in Europe and the world.

After the UK left the EU, Labour decided it would continue to be a member of the Party of European Socialists (PES). This decision was warmly welcomed by other European socialist parties and the productive relationship that is being developed with the German SPD ought to be replicated with other sister parties in Europe and beyond. Our engagement with the PES provides an essential platform on which to build.

Now is the time to put firmly behind us the impression that Labour sometimes gave in the recent past: that the party was not 100% committed to working with the country’s traditional allies and friends across international borders. Today, Labour’s commitment to NATO is unquestionable and there is no equivocation in Labour’s attitude to Russia under Putin and the appalling war he is conducting in Ukraine.

The tired, old, and irrelevant slogans of the far left need to be rejected at all levels of the party and we must see the world as it actually is. And there needs to be a recognition that the great challenges of our time – climate change, poverty, population movement, and much else – can only be successfully tackled if nations work together, with respect for the rule of law and with a willingness to defend the poor and oppressed, rather than standing to one side. This means that international development must be at the heart of Labour’s internationalism.

We should remember too that Britain’s national interest can only be promoted if we recognise that cooperation with like-minded friends and allies has to be based on consistent cooperation; an occasional ‘chat’ between leaders or a fleeting exchange in the fringe of a conference cannot be enough. Cooperation must be an ongoing process. This is needed in many areas, but especially when it comes to working with partners to develop a progressive approach to post-Brexit global trade.

The reality of the government’s ‘Global Britain’ is that it is turning out to be little more than an empty slogan; Labour’s international challenge is to map out a way to make real Britain’s influence in the world, while recognising that positive relationships with our near neighbours must be central to our international agenda. The LIG can, and will, help to make this a reality.

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