There is an old refrain that foreign policy is not a doorstep issue. For many, it lives in the realm of high-level summits and photo calls, long diplomatic meetings or embassy drinks parties. It is something that happens over there.
But there may now be a growing recognition of just how much ‘the things that happen over there’ affect us here in Britain. The past few years have given us a plethora of events that, like an Icelandic volcano’s ash cloud, have had, and continue to have, significant impacts on the UK – from the refugee crisis and the Covid pandemic to the ongoing war in Ukraine.
As co-chairs of Labour Foreign Policy Group, we have always been aware of the strong connection between the UK’s foreign policy and its domestic situation. We have seen the generosity of people opening their homes to Ukrainian refugees and the support the UK veteran community gave to Afghan allies.
We have been advocates for connecting the values we hold dear at home – such as fairness, freedom, women’s rights and the rule of law – to those that we choose to promote and pursue overseas. Labour, and the UK, is stronger when it links these values and our priorities at home with our public face overseas.
And now, with the sad passing of Queen Elizabeth II, we may begin to see significant shifts in how we and others view Britain’s role in the Commonwealth and the world under King Charles III.
One year ago, we launched a survey to gauge Labour members’ views on the UK’s foreign policy and the priorities Labour ought to have. We were impressed with the strong engagement we received and the clear messages that filtered through. A majority of respondents believed that climate change was one of the biggest threats facing the UK and that it should be dealt with as a key objective. Many also believed that the UK needs to repair its relationship with Europe in the wake of the government’s failed Brexit, including actively considering whether to rejoin the customs union or even the EU itself.
Sadly, the UK’s foreign policy was described as ‘isolated, weak and untrustworthy’, with only 2% of respondents describing themselves as proud of the country’s policy stance. Many wished for the UK for be described as fair, progressive, compassionate and respected.
Since then, much has changed – and we want to know whether members’ views have changed. As the prospect of a general election looms, Labour’s views on foreign policy are more important than ever. To date, Labour has been robust in calling out the government for the appalling policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda and its timidity regarding sanctions on Russia. But with large world events like the war in Ukraine, Brexit and the pandemic intersecting with our cost-of-living crisis at home, Labour has an opportunity to gain the public’s confidence, and their votes, for its own plan.
Our survey will collect members’ views and share them with the party. Have your say and help craft Labour’s message on its foreign policy priorities in the run-up to the next general election and beyond. The survey will be open until Tuesday, October 4th, at 5pm. Results will be published shortly thereafter. Take the survey here.
Labour Foreign Policy Group is co-hosting a number of events at Labour Party conference 2022 in Liverpool including the panel event ‘Stronger Together for Britain in the World’ on Sunday September 25th, as part of Anneliese Dodds MP’s Stronger Together policy review. See all of our events here.