LABOUR’S foreign policy under Jeremy Corbyn had “fundamental weaknesses” that will need to be tackled, a close Keir Starmer ally has claimed.
Speaking exclusively with Redaction, recent Shadow Cabinet appointee Wayne David MP has given a candid appraisal of where he thinks Labour under Corbyn went wrong and where it will go from here.
This publication had highlighted Mr David’s past voting record, including five votes in favour of the Iraq war, but the frontbencher claimed he largely agreed with the former leader’s multilateral approach.
The Shadow Middle East Minister told Redaction: “Jeremy was successful in bringing forward values once again to be the cornerstone of Labour’s policy.
“Those values are based on internationalism and having a strong moral base to actions.
“Multilateralism was also one of the key elements, which will be continued and enhanced, I think with Lisa Nandy and Keir Starmer.”
A Shadow Defence Minister through much of the Corbyn-era, Wayne David argues, despite reviving Labour values, the party showed a lack of consistency on international issues.
He told this publication: “I also think there were weaknesses with Jeremy’s approach and one of the fundamental weaknesses, I would argue now, as indeed I argued internally at the time was that there was a lack of consistency with regard to attitudes to all countries.”
In particular, the new Shadow Middle East Minister singles out failure to call out damaging aspects of Russian foreign policy.
He said: “I think that insufficient attention was given to the nature of Russia, the fact that it is effectively on oligarchy dictatorship. The foreign policy, which has been pursued by Putin is pretty appalling.
“We can see that as far as Ukraine’s concerned, the destabilisation of Estonia and other countries, as well as what’s happening in Syria.
“I think but under Jeremy sadly, there was not sufficient highlighting and criticism of that.”
Mr Corbyn was accused of being soft on the Kremlin in the aftermath of the Skripal incident, with one Labour backbencher telling the Guardian: “Putin’s constant and shameful apologist might just as well stand aside and let the Russian ambassador write the speeches and brief the media himself.”
The MP for Caerphilly offered a glimpse into the future for Labour’s new foreign policy direction under Keir Starmer.
“I think what we’ll see under Keir Starmer and Lisa Nandy is a far more even-handed approach so that there aren’t judgments made incorrectly about the nature of a country’s activity no matter what that country is,” Mr David told Redaction.
He continued: “Not matter where in the world, wrong will be condemned for being wrong. We will stand up for ordinary people who are oppressed and nations which are attacked or undermined, irrespective of what might be taken as our previous stances on certain countries,
“There will be a far greater universal if you like, application of our labour values, and I think that will be one of the key hallmarks.”
As the Labour veteran looks to open a new chapter for the party, Mr David took the opportunity to address his own past stances, notably on the Iraq war and Libya.
Redaction revealed on his return to frontbench politics that Mr David has shown a hawkish tendency, voting consistently for UK military action overseas.
This includes five votes in favour of the Iraq War, in the face of opposition from trade unions and across the left – accumulating in huge mass street protests.
On the build-up to the Iraq war vote, Mr David said: “Yes, it was an extremely difficult decision to make.
“There’s no doubt about that. I mean, when you have, you know, over a million people on the streets protesting against the war, it, of course, was an important consideration.
“But at the end of the day, when the Prime Minister stood up in the house and said, I have incontrovertible evidence, there are weapons of mass destruction and there is a threat to humanity, you have to make a decision as to which side of the argument is strongest.”
The Iraq war is now widely recognised as the archetype liberal intervention failure, with millions of lives lost and wider regional scarring due to the chaotic fall-out.
Looking back, the Shadow Minister pins the failure partly on a lack of forward planning around the post-invasion occupation.
Mr David tells how, on a visit to the Pentagon, a five-star general set out the grand US strategic vision for Iraq as “send the military in there to kick ass and get out.”
However, the long-standing MP has since expressed regret for his choice to back the war, and how the manner in which that decision was reached.
As early as 2007, Mr David was asking his fellow MPs: “Does my Right Hon. Friend acknowledge that it is important to emphasise that there is a democratically elected Government in Iraq and that there must be consultation and partnership with them in determining the best time for the people of Iraq for British troops to withdraw?”
By that time the conflict had already claimed an estimated 151,000 to 600,000 Iraqi lives.
UK combat operations in Iraq did officially come to a halt in 2009 but the eventual rise of ISIS would once again see British troops committed to the region.
Speaking now Mr David admits: “If the information had been presented in a more objective way and there was more cabinet discussion and therefore a better discussion in the House (of Commons.)
“Now, I think the decision might have been different. Now, I might have voted differently as well.”
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