Is it possible to have an ethical foreign policy?


This was the question Twickenham MP Vincent Cable asked when he spoke to members of Twickenham and Richmond UN Association and others on 17th May. The audience included quite a few KPC members. Dr Cable supported Robin Cook’s plans for a British foreign policy that took ethical concerns seriously and outlined what he saw as Cook’s programme, including: more support for multilateral organisations - specially the UN, a large and effective aid programme, arms trade limitation and perhaps more controversially ‘humanitarian’ intervention as in Former Yugoslavia.

Dr Cable considered what had actually happened against this background. Iraq was an appalling disaster. He thought this would make the West reluctant to intervene in future. (No bad thing?) He also highlighted the damage done to the UK’s reputation by the BAE Systems/Saudi corruption allegations and the Serious Fraud Office’s dropping of the case. Dr Cable discussed our dealings with China and Russia in relation to Human Rights and he stressed the importance of support for the UN.

Anyone who has read this far will know that a large number of hands went up as soon as the meeting was open for questions. One important issue was “Why couldn’t the Liberal Democrats come out more firmly against Trident?”.  Vincent Cable agreed that any idea of the first use of nuclear weapons was profoundly wrong but otherwise confirmed his party’s current policy. Serious, well-expressed concerns were raised on a range of subjects including: Guantanamo Bay, the billions of dollars that had gone missing in Iraq, the role of the EU, Iran, Palestine, the CIA’s arming of the mujahedin and all that followed, and Darfur and Zimbabwe.

Vincent Cable started the meeting by congratulating the local UN Association for their effective lobbying. He replied thoughtfully to questions and comments. It sounds trite but it really did seem an evening where we could not only hear the views of our MP but also express our concerns to him.

Mary Holmes