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David Miliband – on the eve of the UK\’s elections

David Miliband – on the eve of the UK\’s elections

On the 23rd  March, David Miliband, UK’s Foreign Secretary addressed a full house of Foreign Press journalists and Commonwealth Society members. Young, eloquent and persuasive, his primary aim was to promote the Labour Party’s agenda in view of the forthcoming general elections, to take place around the 6th of May this year. During his speech, he pointed out that apart from the UK public, there are 2 groups of citizens eligible to vote in the elections – Commonwealth citizens and British passport holders abroad. He was more than prepared to take questions from the floor on his recent steps, especially on the Middle East and the recent expulsion of an Israeli diplomat from the UK.

Standing against the Labour party logo and a red drape which read, A Future Fair for All, Miliband emphasised the importance of Foreign Affairs in a political party’s agenda, “International affairs play an important part in politics and in the month ahead of the elections, this is a good time to announce Labour’s programme and the gains of the last 13 years we can build on, despite the fact that we have all been affected by the economic crisis.”

Going straight on to elections, he said that three points will decide the elections: Has Britain gone forward under Labour rule; Who has big ideas for the future and Has the Tory party changed during the last 13 years? “This is the knob of British politics. Today, Britain is more engaged than ever before; it is richer, fairer than the legacy of the 18-year Tory rule.” He went on to point out that when Labour took over, Britain was embroiled in the ‘Beef War’ of Europe in the 90’s, which led to the isolation of the country. “We have brought Britain back to the mainstream”.

On the question of the differences between the Conservative and Labour parties’ foreign policies, Miliband firmly declared that whereas under his party rule, Britain has a higher standing in Europe and the world, with dynamic future development in mind, the Tories are stuck in a time warp – bring back Mrs. Thatcher, take on the trade unions, restore fox hunting and other hackneyed ideas. “The Tories have Europhobia and will withdraw themselves into a residue of Thatcherism. Anti-Europeanism is a residue of the 1990s. And Lord Ashcroft is still bank-rolling the Tories.”

[The very next day – the 24th of March – London’s Evening Standard headlines read: Tories Turn to Thatcher Ad. Men. Cameron Calls in Saatchis As Lead Vanishes. And the Brief is to ‘tear lumps out of Brown.’ It went on to say that ‘a survey found the Conservatives’ advantage reduced to just two points – a wafer thin margin that could mean Gordon Brown winning more seats in a hung parliament.’ Saatchi brothers’ creative team behind the slogan ‘Labour isn’t Working’ had helped carry Baroness Thatcher to victory in 1979. They also came up with the Labour’s Tax Bombshell poster for the successful 1992 campaign and the infamous Demon Eyes poster in 1997, which portrayed Tony Blair with satanic eyes.’ Now the campaign will focus on, “five more years of Gordon Brown.”]

With the announcement on the 27th of March of 267 British servicemen having died in Afghanistan – more than troops lost in the Falkans war, the War in Iraq – a Labour-led decision – the war in Afghanistan is becoming increasingly unpopular in the UK.

Popular UK papers such as the Daily Mail, have come up with revelations about Blair. Under the heading, His Moral compass? No, Blair follows his greedometer, the Mail says, “The news that our Prime Minister took hundreds of thousands of pounds from multinational oil giant UI Energy Corporation, is shocking enough, but even worse is the fact the he spent two years to conceal it, dubiously citing commercial confidentiality. This is the man who took the deeply unpopular decision to join forces with the Americans and topple Saddam. This is the man who rode roughshod over any objections with terrifying claims about weapons of mass destruction. This is the man who said it wasn’t about oil.’

Labour’s foreign policies

Milliband also pointed out that Britain had become a leader of international development and that Labour’s aid budget was growing. “Our Commonwealth ties are now stronger than ever before, including countries such as Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Britain is at home with the emergence of developing countries, as we have helped create and shape their economies. We have also made new allies around the world.
“It is now our task to build on these gains. The world will be looking at Great Britain during the Olympic Games in 2012. The eyes of the world will be on us to see our vitality, creativity, hospitality…. We want to be plugged into modern ideas…. ” He added that a re-elected Labour government with dynamic foreign policies on economic resuscitation, will address the challenges ahead.
Turning to Europe, Miliband said that governments of certain countries want Great Britain to be stronger in Europe and that with stronger alliances Britain can bring economic reform and energy into Europe. “Our relations with the US will also be strengthened, as well as with countries with Muslim majority. It is very important for us to build alliances round the world, given the soft power we have with the BBC and our armed forces.” With the last remark he mentioned Afghanistan, Pakistan, South East Asia and Palestine. “Decades of deadlock and multi-nationalism does not work. We must apply our policy.”
Commenting on economic policy, Miliband said that his party follows an open-market reciprocal policy, fighting against protectionism. “We exercise soft power in the 53 Commonwealth countries”.
On the question of the difference between the Conservative and Labour parties’ foreign policies, Miliband firmly declared that whereas under his party, Britain has a higher standing in Europe and the world, with dynamic future development in mind, the Tories are stuck in a time warp – bring back Mrs. Thatcher, restore fox hunting and other hackneyed ideas. “The Tories have Europhobia and will withdraw themselves from into a residue of Thatcherism.”

Expulsion of Israeli diplomat from the UK

David Miliband condemned the counterfeiting of UK passports as ‘intolerable’ and demanded that Israel give assurances that UK citizens would never again be drawn into such an operation, and that the fact that Israel was a friend of the United Kingdom added “insult to injury”. An investigation by the Serious and Organised Crime Squad (Soca) concluded that there were “compelling reasons” to believe Israel was responsible for the cloning of a dozen British passports. The probe determined that the documents were cloned when British citizens passed through airports on their way into Israel, with officials taking them away for “checks” which lasted around 20 minutes.

Israel’s ambassador to London, Ron Prosor, who was summoned in to the Foreign Office and told the news, said he was “disappointed”. A spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry said: “The relationship between Israel and Britain is mutually important. We therefore regret the British decision.” A spokesman for Hamas said it welcomed the decision to expel the diplomat but called for increased international efforts to track down the killers.

Despite the expulsion episode, in his speech at the FPA, Miliband said that he believes that Britain should have a very strong relation with Israel and at the same time support the Palestinians to ensure two states existing side by side in peace and safety. “Pakistan and Afghanistan are going to prove a difficult foreign policy”.
A question from the floor, did not floor Miliband: “Mr. Foreign Secretary, doesn’t UK have double standards regarding Israel and Iran? What about an inspection of Israel’s nuclear position, not to mention the phosphorous Israel used in Gaza?” Miliband sang the same Western song about Iran. While admitting that the UK’s government has called for sanctions against Iran, he was quick to point out “A nuclear armed race in the Middle East is the last thing the region needs”, he said, “Iran’s rights under the non-proliferation treaty should be defended with deeds and not words. We are following a twin-track policy of engagement and pressure with Iran. Indeed, the Arabs are pleading to take diplomatic action on Iran’s nuclear programme, as it affects them primarily.” The part relating to inspection of Israel’s nuclear development was left unanswered!

David Miliband, Foreign Secretary, UK

Born in London, he went to primary school near Leeds, but the bulk of his secondary education was at Haverstock Comprehensive School in London. He went on to read Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. In 1988/9 he won a Kennedy Scholarship to study for a Masters’ Degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States.

David’s first job was in the voluntary sector, working for the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. He was then Research Fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research, and from 1992-94 Secretary of the Commission on Social Justice, set up by the then Leader of the Labour Party, John Smith, to work out new approaches to welfare policy.

From 1994 to 1997 David worked as Head of Policy for Tony Blair, working on the policies that would help Labour into government. He was then Head of the Prime Minister’s Policy Unit in Downing Street during Labour’s first term in office. He helped found the Centre for European Reform, and has edited two books, Reinventing the Left, and Paying for Inequality.

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