by Mark Curtis
“We will put conflict resolution and human rights at the heart of foreign policy, commit to working through the UN, end support for unilateral aggressive wars of intervention and back effective action to alleviate the refugee crisis”.
Whitehall will hope these are the kinds of empty words spoken by most governments. But taken literally, it will strike fear at the heart of Whitehall, which has no intention of such a level of commitment to human rights, no commitment to working through the United Nations or, in fact, for ending support for aggressive wars of intervention. Quite the opposite, Whitehall wants to be free of all these encumbrances.
“Labour is committed to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East based on a two-state solution – a secure Israel alongside a secure and viable state of Palestine. There can be no military solution to this conflict and all sides must avoid taking action that would make peace harder to achieve. That means both an end to the blockade, occupation and settlements, and an end to rocket and terror attacks. Labour will continue to press for an immediate return to meaningful negotiations leading to a diplomatic resolution. A Labour government will immediately recognise the state of Palestine.”
Nearly all of this is the formal current British position – although rhetorically only since the UK completely backs Israel and is doing nothing significant to bring about the UK’s stated policy of stopping illegal settlement building. But the last part, recognition of Palestine, is different and a major challenge to Whitehall. It is opposed to this due to the scale of US and Israeli opposition and the fact that there is now a de facto alliance between Israel and many Arab states (hence no need, as in the past, to suck up to the Arabs by being seen to challenge Israel).
“In our discussions with different governments, including China, Egypt, the Gulf States, Myanmar, the Philippines, Russia and Turkey, we will urge respect for human rights and the rule of law. We will review all training and equipment contracts with repressive regimes, to ensure that Britain never colludes in the mistreatment of civilians”.
This is unacceptable to Whitehall given existing commitments and the special relationship with several repressive regimes, and will be fought bitterly.
“We will always stand up for the rights, interests and self-determination of Britain’s overseas territories and their citizens, whether protecting the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands against anyone who would seek to challenge it, or supporting the right of the Chagos islanders to return to their homelands”.
This is completely unacceptable to Whitehall given the commitment made to the US to continue to use the Diego Garcia base. It will be fought bitterly.
“Labour will demand a comprehensive, independent, UN-led investigation into alleged violations of IHL [international humanitarian law] in Yemen, including air strikes on civilians by the Saudi-led coalition. We will immediately suspend any further arms sales for use in the conflict until that investigation is concluded”.
This is completely unacceptable to Whitehall given the special relationship with Riyadh on all fronts. It will be fought bitterly.
“Labour will… implement the Arms Trade Treaty to a consistently high standard, including ceasing arms exports to countries where there is concern that they will be used to violate international humanitarian law (IHL)”.
Formally, this is similar to the current government position – but it is not being implemented, with Saudi Arabia just one example. Whitehall will fear that the current propaganda directed towards the public (ie, that the UK has ‘arms export controls’) will actually be implemented in practice.
“Labour supports the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent. As a nuclear-armed power, our country has a responsibility to fulfil our obligations under the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty. Labour will lead multilateral efforts with international partners and the UN to create a nuclear-free world”.
Whitehall may not be so concerned about this at the beginning – since it will assume that such talks will fail – but would become so if there appeared any chance of progress being made. The last thing that Whitehall wants is to give up nuclear weapons, whether multilaterally or not, since these are useful to uphold British power in the eyes of the US and wider world, and threaten other states in a crisis.
Labour manifesto available at: http://www.labour.org.uk/index.php/manifesto2017/a-global-britain