THE Coronavirus pandemic brings enormous implications for the UK’s foreign relations with the rest of the world.
Keeping Boris Johnson’s government honest amid the altered international realities of a post-COVID 19 world will be the job of Labour’s new shadow front bench.
Redaction Politics revealed this week the hawkish tendencies within the party’s new foreign affairs team.
Examination of the wider shadow cabinet shows a growing number of members with a track record of supporting interventionist foreign policy.
The new Shadow Defence Secretary, John Healey is a veteran of the Brown/Blair foreign policy era and has the voting record to match.
He cast his vote in favour of the Iraq war and for military action in Libya and Afghanistan.
Healey would go on to vote 14 times against investigation into the Iraq conflict and the aftermath.
But the Yorkshireman drew the line at airstrikes in Syria in 2015 telling his local part that bombing risked strengthening ISIL’s hand in terms of propaganda.
Though he cavitated this by saying: “There is every reason, based on current operations in Iraq and Syria to believe that the number of such casualties would be low.”
This statement was made before evidence emerged on the ground which contradicted the Coalition’s artificially low civilian casualty figures.
Later Amnesty International – of which Healey is a member – would accuse the US-led Coalition of being ‘deeply in denial’ about civilian casualties in Raqqa.
His new shadow cabinet colleague Conor McGinn was less reserved in his support for action against Daesh in Syria and voted for airstrikes in 2015.
The MP for St Helens North has taken up the Shadow Minister for Security and has consistently voted for use of UK military forces in combat operations overseas.
Prior to the Syria vote McGinn’s track record when it comes to foreign policy closes mirrors that of his new boss in the Shadow Defence team – voting against any Iraq war investigations.
Both MPs’ offices were contacted for comment.
Outside of the Shadow Defence portfolio another Starmer frontbencher who has almost always voted for UK military action overseas is deputy chief whip Alan Campbell.
The man who will be helping keep Labour MPs onside for crucial and often divisive foreign policy votes has himself only voted against committing UK troops to operations abroad twice between 2003-2015.
Taken alongside Starmer’s other shadow foreign relations appointments, the wider cabinet has done little to demonstrate a strong commitment to anti-interventionist ends.
Past actions and votes set aside – with meaningful foreign policy effectively on hold amid a global health crisis- they need to be given time to set out a new human-rights based vision for Britain in the world.
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