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Sunday, June 19, 2005

This may not be the issue that most Conservatives are thinking of at the moment in terms of making themselves electable again, but it deserves the greatest attention. Charles Moore raised the key points in this respect in yesterday’s Telegraph namely that parties/politicians who don’t seem to have an idea of where to put this country in this world are unelectable, and rightly so too.
I’m not going to go into detail of what I think this should look like, partly because I’m still working on it, but I think in terms of the debate’s dynamics there are xx options on foreign policy for the Conservatives to consider:

Isolationist: This would be a rejection of all international engagement, spurning the relationship with the US, European integration, multi-lateral frameworks, alliance agreements and sceptical about maintaining and defending overseas territories. Sean Gabb is the only bigger name I can think of who fits this bill.
Unilateralist / Isolationist-Plus: Carrying with it a whiff of Empire nostalgia, this sort of approach would retain some elements of the pure isolationist view, but would in constrast be committed to maintaining bilateral support deals with smaller countries such as Belize and to defending overseas territories such as the Falklands. Peter Oborne would fit the bill, for example by opposing European integration, the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, while favouring intervention in Zimbabwe.
America-First: This strand of Tory foreign policy thinking is the one that is currently most widespread in the debate. This approach sees our close relationship to the US as the most important foreign policy goal, and tends to subordinate other issues such as European intregration to maintaining this.
Semi-“neocons”: I definitely used to be one of these, right up from my childhood, but I had a bit of a rethink in late 2000/early 2001 (a story for another day). This is the kind of approach that fuses together the promotion of democracy and human rights with military force and confident Western hegemony. This is strongly interventionist. The signatories of the UK Scoop Jackson fan club would certainly meet the criteria.
Transatlantic bridge: In some respects this would be Blairite world politics in blue. This approach would be a rhetorically hardened and overall more cautious version of Tony Blair’s foreign policy of international engagement.
EUrofederast / Anti-American: I remain to be convinced that this approach, of turning the Tories into dedicated Euroderalists and anti-Americans would work either inside the party or with the potential centre-right electorate the Tories need to win back. The British swing voters may be anti-Bush, but they his intentions to stand as a future Tory leader the most relevant.

(There are a number of options I don’t deal with as they are incompatibly with being a Tory; Pacifism would be an example of that.)

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