1997 Onwards -
Below is the text of Sir John Major’s speech at the Tory Reform Group Dinner, held at the Cavalry and Guards Club in London on Wednesday 25th November 2009.
SIR JOHN MAJOR:
Here at Cavalry & Guards Club: moment to remember contribution of Cavalry, Guards and Services generally in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere as we sit here over dinner. We owe them a lot.
You may think “British Foreign Policy in a Changing World” is an odd subject for someone who was Foreign Secretary for a mere 94 days.
I partly agree: except -
This evening, I want to focus on the world as it is -
Fifty years ago, no-
The Soviet Union and the United States were the two super-
But old attitudes linger. Often, very old attitudes. Beneath a thin veneer, there are still strands of opinion that hanker for the days when Palmerston sent a gun boat. These days, there are no Palmerstons and -
As we look forward, more than ever our military power will need supplementing by diplomacy, by soft power, by the intelligent use of foreign policy.
Here, history helps us. Old alliances can be invoked. Old friendships re-
Of course, many recoil at shared authority within Europe but, often, intelligent policy can shackle our partners to policies we advocate. The Single Market is a case in point. So is enlargement to the East. These are two of the biggest changes in European policy since the birth of the Common Market -
After the first Gulf War the Iraqis were murdering Kurds. It was genocide. I advocated a ‘Safe Havens’ policy and persuaded the EU and the Commonwealth to back it. Faced with this alliance, the US, initially reluctant, signed up to this too: troops were put in the field and hundreds of thousands of lives were saved. On these occasions others accommodated British priorities. Sometimes we must accommodate theirs.
The Lisbon Treaty is now law. Some of it is sensible. Some of it I don’t like. In particular, I am hostile to the idea of a President and a High Representative for Foreign Policy and -
Some don’t agree. Britain, they proclaim, has surrendered so much power it has the status of a Parish Council. This is absurd, of course -
But the ‘Better Off Out’ advocates -
It would be folly. A march towards irrelevance at precisely the moment we need all our confidence to compete in a world that is, perhaps, changing faster than it has ever done.
The present economic crisis may slow down the exuberant change of the last decades but it won’t stop it. For sound economic reasons the East will outgrow the West for the foreseeable future: it has a lower cost base, more -
In 1700, China and India were the greatest economic powers in the world: in terms of GDP they will once again -
We have a Government in the UK in the UK that inherited the best economy in Western Europe yet -
Labour bought the last two elections with a reckless economic policy and now the electorate that was deceived must pick up the bill. Labour now promise to halve the deficit in four years: but even if they did so -
Since 1997, much of Labour’s foreign policy has been thoughtless and short-
We had no objective. No idea of the scale of the commitment. No plan. No exit strategy and -
They must ask:-
What is the aim of this war?
What is the cost of failure?
Can it be won by force of arms alone?
What is the political/diplomatic strategy?
And why -
Can a credibly non-
How many troops are necessary?
Does the use of unmanned drones which kill more civilians than terrorists aid or hinder the cause of winning hearts and minds?
These questions -
Good foreign policy also looks at inter-
And this will get worse. In the last 50 years, world population has grown from under 3 billion to over 6.5 billion. At the birth of Christ, world population was -
World population is projected to reach 8 or even 9 billion by 2050 and over 95% of growth is in the developing world. This is like absorbing two more nations the size of China. We ignore this at our peril.
The plight of the poorest is made worse by an issue that will impact on everyone: the price of food.
Here, there is a real irony. As some nations grow and improve living standards, they drive up prices beyond the reach of the poorest. If one billion Indians -
That puts up prices -
In the future the world will need all the food we can grow -
It is hard to overstate the importance of a cogent foreign importance of a cogent policy, and its wider impact, and its wider impact. Apart from those issues I have touched on it must deal with:
The hotspots of Iran and Iraq;
The Middle East Peace Process;
The risks of nuclear or biological terror;
The insecurities created by the arc of uncertainty from Syria to Pakistan;
The enigma of Russian policy-
We must make sure the Foreign Office is equipped for these tasks. It needs to be strengthened -
There is an old sneer that the Foreign Office exists for foreigners. It is often trotted out to the applause of the ignorant and the ill-
Nothing could be further from the truth. The Foreign Office exists to represent British interests overseas in diplomacy and trade. Its job is to negotiate, to persuade, to identify a identify a problem before it becomes a crisis, before it becomes a crisis, and prepare the ground for solutions. In an increasingly inter-
Let us hope we are soon returned to a Government that will re-
The world is in a constant state of change -
And then we can return to serious policy.