Ryan Baldry: Our global security is at risk when we become distracted by events in Westminster

21 Jan

Ryan Baldry is the Communications Manager at the Coalition for Global Prosperity and former Parliamentary Staffer to a Government Minister.

When there’s political drama in Westminster, we are all guilty of being drawn in. It’s easy to think that the world stops while the events of SW1 unfold but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Those who wish to act against us or without us noticing, use these times of looking inward to act. And it’s these acts and global crises we must not lose sight of.

The international stage is as unpredictable now as it was in 2021 and the United Kingdom must not lose focus. There is incredible momentum for us to build on as a global force for good as we move forward following the successes of the UK Presidency of the G7 alongside the ongoing Presidency of COP until November.

The crises that we face are only mounting and the world’s most vulnerable and at-risk need the UK to be a leading player in the international community. A crisis overseas quickly can become a crisis at home. We’ve witnessed it first hand throughout the Covid pandemic and with a changing climate, regional instabilities and fragile democracies, this danger isn’t going away. A crisis can come out of the blue when we’re not paying attention so while all eyes are on Downing Street and counting letters, what could be coming our way over the next few weeks and months?

First, the situation in Ukraine is one that cannot be done justice in just one oped but is one we cannot afford to lose focus on. The FCDO and the MOD have both been unequivocal in their support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity but the UK must maintain the pressure.

With the UN Security Council a non-starter with Russia and China’s veto, the UK must continue to keep the pressure on the Russian President all year round to demonstrate that any further encroachment on Ukrainian soil would be unacceptable. If anything is to happen, it will be soon with tensions already at breaking point. If Russia sees any weakness or distraction from NATO, the UK or the USA, things could move incredibly quickly with Western states paralysed by domestic politics

The next challenge would be for the UK to continue applying pressure and leading wealthier nations to help vaccinate the world’s most vulnerable. We may be nearing the end of COVID as a pandemic in the UK but globally, this isn’t the case. New variants will emerge that can undermine vaccines and continue to destabilise already fragile health systems. The UK did excellent work of pushing this through Global Vaccine Summits and the G7 but we can’t stop now.

Alongside this, we have the situation in Afghanistan which only continues to deteriorate with each passing day and could quickly become a crisis we are forced to confront. We’re witnessing a humanitarian crisis with food shortages, human rights being pushed aside and a regime that nobody wanted to see in power.

The United Nations launched a $5 billion appeal – the largest in their history. But the cost of inaction will always outweigh the cost of action. If the UK does not lead or bring other governments along with us, we will continue to see mass migration with people heading to our own shores among many others. This then creates additional crises such as the deadly Channel crossings which we have seen cannot be stopped by strongly worded tweets or political desire alone.

They must be resolved at the source and this can only be achieved by utilising our international development budget to help invest in women and girls education, nutrition and health infrastructure. The UK must ensure that the progress made in Afghanistan and the wider region is not lost to a regime that doesn’t value human rights or democratic values.

Last and by no means least, we are always facing the crisis of foreign interference in our democracy. Only last week this was thrown into the spotlight when foreign interference in our own Parliament and politics was uncovered. We are often being warned about the threat that China faces to the UK in terms of cyber attacks, operation of critical infrastructure or their territorial ambitions.

But discovering that they were able to secure influence in the corridors of power should frighten us and also serve as a wake-up call to ensure that we focus on protecting and securing our democracy from those who wish to damage it. The UK must promote our cultural exports and soft power influence further around the world to show that the era of democracy is not coming to an end but is being strengthened. Again, if the UK looks away, this is when others will act against our interests.

Now more than ever, we need a strong and motivated Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. We’re rightly putting record sums into the Ministry of Defence but to compliment this, we need to properly invest in our diplomatic network and soft power.

The Chancellor’s recent commitment to return to spending 0.7 per cent of GDP on International Development is extremely welcome and a sign that the importance and leading role of UK soft power has been recognised. But to back this up we need to properly invest in our embassies and consulates. UK diplomats need to be on the ground and making the most of the incredible expertise that exists within FCDO.

By investing now, we can make sure that the UK is always around the table and that we continue to secure our role on the world stage as a leading force for good in a world where the shining light of democratic values is needed now more than ever.

Peter Franklin: Don’t write off the possibility of Hillary Clinton re-running for President

17 Jan

Peter Franklin is an Associate Editor of UnHerd.

With so much going on at home, Brits may be forgiven for not noticing the political crisis brewing in America. Nevertheless, last week was almost as bad for Joe Biden as it was for Boris Johnson.

The leader of the free world is coming to resemble that most pathetic of creatures: the first-term lame duck President. Of course, there was always a risk of that. At 79, Biden is by far the oldest person to have occupied the Oval Office. Running for re-election and completing a second term would mean carrying on until he’s 86.

However, it’s not infirmity that looks like dooming the Biden administration, but unpopularity. Last week a Quinnipiac poll recorded a new low — an approval rating of just 33 per cent. That’s lower than at the same stage of Donald Trump’s Presidency. It should be said that Biden does a bit better with other pollsters, but not by much.

There are multiple reasons for what has gone so wrong so fast: the humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan; the ongoing Covid crisis; and inflation like Americans haven’t seen in decades. Biden is also having trouble getting his agenda through Congress. Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona were elected as Democrats, but on key measures they’ve sided with the Republicans.

Things could go from bad to worse. The mid-term elections coming up later this year could produce Republican majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. That could mean complete legislative gridlock and the confirmation of Biden’s lame duck status.

Still, never mind. At least the old stager’s had his last hurrah. Instead of running again in 2024, he could retire gracefully and everyone would understand. He could simply pass the baton to his much younger Vice President. Kamala Harris is ready-and-waiting to become America’s first female President.

Sounds like a plan. Except there’s one tiny problem with it: Harris is unpopular too. She’s not a calamitous Veep like, say, Dan Quayle; it’s just that voters don’t like her. I think it was Bob Monkhouse who quipped “people like sincerity — and if you can fake that you’ve got it made.” Whether for good or ill, Harris can’t fake sincerity. In fact, she’s hampered by an inability to communicate any sort of emotion without it sounding forced.

She’s a poor campaigner too. Her attempt to win the 2020 Democratic nomination went badly. She was monstered in one of the early debates by Tulsi Gabbard — and withdrew not long after. Luckily for her, the eventual nominee Biden was determined to pick a woman as a running mate and she got the nod. And thus she found herself one heartbeat away from the Presidency.

But for how much longer? Even if Biden runs again in 2024 there’s talk of dropping Harris from the ticket. The idea would be to nominate her to the Supreme Court, while he finds a more popular running mate. If, on the other hand, Biden doesn’t run again, then the Democratic nomination is likely to be contested — and Harris can’t count on a coronation.

Let’s not forget that the current favourite for the Republican nomination is Donald J Trump. Should that remain the case, then the Democrats will be desperate to stop his comeback. If that means dropping a persistently unpopular President and Vice President, then they’d be stupid not to.

And yet that would place the Dems in a difficult position. Holding on to the White House without either the incumbent President or Vice President isn’t easy. In fact, it hasn’t happened since 1928 when Herbert Hoover succeeded Calvin Coolidge — and those, of course, were Republicans.

In 2024, the Dems would have to stand before the American people and say “sorry about the previous President and VP, folks — they were hopeless, but please vote for us again.”

There’s also the risk that, in an open race for the nomination, a candidate from the so-called “progressive” wing of the party might win. The nightmare nominee is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (who’ll be old enough to run next time). The Congresswoman may be an ultra-woke firebrand, but she’s popular with the party’s rising generation of millennial activists.

So, in the absence of Biden and Harris, the Democratic establishment would need to pull a really big name out of the hat. Big enough, in fact, to distract voter attention from the party’s disarray and to bulldoze any challenge from the Left.

But who? Writing in The Wall Street Journal last week, Douglas E. Schoen and Andrew Stein make the case for Hillary Clinton. Yes, that Hillary Clinton — the one who lost against Trump in 2016. They can’t be serious, can they?

Well, there is a case. First, instead of scrabbling around for some obscure Governor or junior member of the Biden administration, the party could put forward a household name. Second, she’s a woman — which would erase the embarrassment of sidelining the first female Vice President. And third, there’s the delicious prospect (for Democrats) of righting the “wrong” of 2016.

But isn’t she just too old and controversial? Not really — at least not anymore. Biden has extended the acceptable limit of age (Clinton is five years younger), while Trump has done the same for disagreeability.

So could we see a Trump-Clinton rematch in 2024? Not if there’s any chance of Trump winning again — she surely wouldn’t run the risk of a second humiliation. However, if the Republican nominee (whether Trump or someone else) looks beatable, then why not?

Indeed, there’s a scenario in which Clinton becomes the best hope of victory. If the Republicans winning a crushing victory in the mid-terms, it may dawn upon the Democrats that the party’s wokeness, which Biden has pandered to, is electoral poison. A particular worry is the Hispanic vote, which is showing signs of a historic shift to the Republicans.

In such a bind, the only way out for the Democrats would be to triangulate between the extremes of Right and Left just as they did in the 1990s under Bill Clinton. So could Hillary emerge as the triangulator of the 2020s?

She starts off with the right ideological bona fides. She’s a moderate, but a liberal moderate. If anyone can talk her fellow liberals back from the edge of lunacy it’s her. Furthermore, she’s tough, outspoken and, most importantly, she’s got nothing much to lose at this stage. Assuming she’s not succumbed to the woke mind virus herself, no one is better placed to save the Dems from their own worst instincts.

Right now, the mainstream reaction to the idea of a Clinton comeback is “you’ve got to be joking!” But by the end of the year it could shift to “isn’t there a better candidate?” If that becomes the question, then she’s in with a shot.

Fiona Bruce: Let’s make freedom of belief for life – not just for Christmas

23 Dec

Fiona Bruce MP is the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, and is MP for Congleton.

I have been the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) for a year now now – so a lot of reports about violations of FoRB have reached me. Accounts of people losing their homes, jobs, livelihoods, freedom, even their lives, simply on account of what they believe. So, you would think that I might be inured to accounts of suffering.

However, I can say without hesitation that the report last month from Aid to the Church in Need, Hear Her Cries, moved me more than any other I have read.

After I had finished reading it, I just sat and cried, reading accounts from brave women of their kidnapping, forced conversion, sexual victimisation and unimaginable suffering.

Like little Farah aged just 12, a Christian girl from Faisalabad, who was abducted by men who forced their way into her grandfather’s home and took her.

During five months of sexual enslavement, she was shackled and forced to work long hours cleaning animal dung in her abductor’s yard.

Farah said: “I was chained most of the time… It was terrible. They put chains on my ankles and tied me with a rope. I tried to cut the rope and get the chains off but I couldn’t manage it. I prayed every night, saying: ‘God, please help me.’ ”

Her ankles were wounded where she was shackled. The court ruled the marriage unlawful, but no action was taken against Farah’s abductor. However, this report has to do more than just move us to tears: it has to move us to action.

As Liz Truss, said recently, announcing a major Ministerial conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief to be hosted by the UK next year in London: “There are still too many places around the world where practising one’s religion, or having no religion, can cost you your freedom or even your life. The challenges to these freedoms continue to grow in different shapes and forms around the world. So we must act.”

We must act to fight for change so that the hundreds, indeed thousands of women and girls who have suffered and indeed continue to suffer like this have hope for change.

We must ensure there is much wider help in terms of humanitarian assistance for such women, and more extensive training in specialised trauma counselling. We need to call out when authorities in countries turn a blind eye or, tragically, even condone at times such action where the legal system fails them. We must ensure that steps are taken against the perpetrators to hold them to account. We must better learn how to identify early warning signs to avert atrocities, and work with others in the international community to better do so together. We must better understand the double jeopardy of women who are members of religious minorities – often also amongst the poorest and most vulnerable in their societies.

Many will have seen on the news the dreadful plight of Afghans, now at the mercy of the Taliban, attempting to escape. I have spoken directly to members of several religious communities, including Christians, Sikhs, Muslims and Hazaras, and the non-governmental organisations supporting them.

Those who do not submit to the beliefs of the Taliban are frequently at risk of losing their life, and some have lost their lives. We heard of some thousand Hazaras who had been thrown out of their homes and were wandering the countryside, with a dozen or so found by others beheaded at the roadside.

As I told the Prime Minister in the penultimate PMQs before Christmas, there are individuals who have targets on their head just because of their belief now waiting on the UK and other countries to give them the promised gift of refuge before the end of Christmas

One of my Christmas wishes is for the planned Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) to include some people from such religious minority groups. The U.K. can be proud of its efforts to evacuate 18,000 people from Afghanistan to the U.K. since 15th August.  More recently, specific vulnerable groups like women judges, footballers and LGBT members have been given protection.

However, as efforts shift to progressing the ACRS it is important that some of the first tranche include religious minorities because of their acute vulnerability.

So as we approach Christmas this year with concerns about restrictions on our ability to see family to see family and friends, spare a thought or a prayer for those in countries like Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan who wake up each year on Christmas Day worrying for their own survival as a result of their religion or belief.

This matters for us all. As the Prime Minister said at this time a year ago, “We all know that wherever freedom of belief is under attack, other human rights are under attack as well”.

We all need to work together – Government, Parliament and civil society – and we need to ensure that this fundamental human right is upheld for generations to come.

That’s why I have launched a nationwide campaign with my newly appointed Deputy Special Envoy, David Burrowes, to ‘EndThePersecution’ with a particular focus on young people, creating Young Ambassadors for FoRB so that they can continue to champion this cause.So let’s be resolved in 2022 to make freedom of religion or belief for life not just for Christmas.

Sarah Ingham: Under Johnson, the Marie Antoinette of our times, a Labour government is no longer unimaginable

10 Dec

Sarah Ingham is author of The Military Covenant: its impact on civil-military relations in Britain.

For someone who aspired to being world king, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has turned out to be more like France’s Louis XV, who predicted ‘Après moi, le deluge’.

“After me, the flood” has nothing to do with the Government’s obsession with carbon net zero. Let’s hope this fixation reached its zenith at last month’s preening eco-fest, COP26, also known as Davos on the Clyde. Instead, the failures of the reign of King Louis (1710-1774) paved the way for the French Revolution of 1789. Whether the monarch was anticipating or was indifferent to the chaos which would follow him is usually only of academic concern.

Close to the second anniversary of the 2019 election victory which delivered a landslide majority of 80, the Prime Minister’s own seeming indifference to the plight of the people of this country is only rivalled by that of Louis’ granddaughter-in-law, Marie Antoinette, to her subjects. Let them eat cake? Let their children, like 13-year-old Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab, die alone. Let their frail elderly be unvisited in care homes. Let their weddings be postponed. Let their churches, temples, synagogues and mosques be closed.

Patterson, Peppa Pig, parties at No 10 and Plan B. During the past few weeks, Johnson has not so much crashed the car into a ditch as sent it over a cliff where it somersaults to the ground before exploding into a fireball. Never mind unforced, his errors appear so wilful, it has to be asked whether he is up to the job of being PM – or indeed even wants it.

“There is no Plan B” – you wish. On Wednesday, more Covid-related restrictions on daily life were unveiled. The timing was reminiscent of the United States’ 1998 bombing of a factory in Sudan, assumed to be Bill Clinton’s very own diversionary tactic to distract from the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

The Conservatives are supposed to be the party of business, enterprise and wise stewardship of the economy. The Institute of Economic Affairs suggests the latest Covid measures will cost Britain £4 billion a month. And the Government clearly views the hospitality sector as below the salt, despite contributing almost £60 billion in gross value added to the British economy in 2019. Hammering it in the run-up to Christmas for the second successive year could be the final straw for many weakened businesses. Let them go bust.

There should be no Plan B. Omicron might well be a live vaccine, bestowing natural immunity following a mild cold-like infection. Instead of viewing the variant as a possible blessing, we’re back to more masks, tests, vaccines passports and Working From Home. As ConservativeHome revealed earlier this week, WFH has turned out to be less than optimal for the Foreign Office or for desperate Afghans.

The Government’s response to Covid has been flawed from the get-go: disproportionate, panicked and heedless of collateral damage. It would have been better off consulting Mystic Meg than Professor Neil Ferguson and his ilk. SAGE should have been sacked long ago. Its advice has not only crashed the British economy but failed to prevent 146,000 Covid-related deaths.

The massive structural flaws within the state apparatus which the pandemic has revealed would have been a toxic inheritance for any leader. Post-Brexit Britain can no longer use Brussels as an excuse for mismanagement and burdensome red tape. The country needs a leader with the vision and drive to implement wholesale reform, not least of the Civil Service. We need another Thatcher to solve problems like the NHS: instead we get Johnson who ineffectively throws money at them, raising the tax burden to its highest and most unConservative level since the Second World War. Let them be poorer.

Anyone who has been out on the campaign trail with Johnson will testify to his charisma and the feel-good he conjures up among voters on the rainiest of days. However, his 2019 victory was not down to his celebrity or distinctive cartoon-like silhouette which fascinates small children or to his jokes.

Getting Brexit done was about more than Britain leaving the EU. By opting for Leave in 2016, voters signalled their demand for wholesale change within this country, only to be ignored and insulted by the Remainer political establishment – that includes you, Keir Starmer – who wanted to cling to the status quo. The Red Wall turned blue two years ago because Boris seemed to be on its voters’ side: instead of despising them, he got them.

Those voters are now asking where is Plan A. And whether it includes indulging the eco-loons of Insulate Britain, putting out the welcome mat for illegal migrants, ripping out gas boilers and imposing £1.4 trillion in costs to get the country to net zero. Where are Conservative principles in all this? Governing by focus group is not governing at all.

Blowing up voters’ goodwill, no Jeremy Corbyn to bash, Brexit done … MPs are surely weighing up whether Johnson is an asset or a liability. Next week’s result in North Shropshire should tell them.

The parties at No10 are the ultimate in toxic do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do hypocrisy. This is a different order of magnitude from Barnard Castle and the handsy Hancock trysts. Voters are not going to forget or forgive. For many, it’s too close to dancing on graves.

Johnson’s always shaky moral authority is ebbing away. There is already a suspicion that the PM and his wife stretched the rules (or was it the guidance?) last Christmas Day. Should they have stuck two fingers up at voters by going along to the knees-ups at the No10 frat house, it’s game over.

A three-week lockdown has turned into 21 months of state inference in our daily lives, with our hard-fought freedoms trashed by sub-prime officials and ministers. Liberty is the core Conservative value. It would be poetic justice if the Prime Minister were brought down by the statist rules he introduced.

The hubris, self-indulgence and lack of seriousness in Downing Street is typified by a melodrama over a makeover, involving the Electoral Commission in choices about wallpaper.

Thanks to the current chaotic regime, a Labour government is no longer unimaginable. Does Johnson care, or is he actually wanting to spend more time with his new family and with making Netflix documentaries? Après moi, le deluge.

Sarah Ingham: In these woke-not-bloke days, the military’s main mission is being increasingly overlooked

12 Nov

Sarah Ingham is author of The Military Covenant: its impact on civil-military relations in Britain.

This week, we remember.

Yesterday was Armistice Day: at 11 o’clock many observed the Two Minute Silence. The first was in 1919, on the anniversary of the guns finally falling silent in what the victory medal awarded to 5.7 million Allied veterans stated was the Great War for Civilisation.

On Sunday, the annual service at the Cenotaph will honour the dead of both World Wars and subsequent conflicts. The Queen will attend but will be absent from Saturday’s Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall.

A Remembrance poppy is not just a symbol of respect for past sacrifice but a reminder to civilians about present-day military service. As the Second World War and even National Service becomes the stuff of history rather than living memory – the last National Servicemen were demobbed in 1963 – few consider themselves members of the “Armed Forces Community” of serving personnel, veterans and their families.

With the total full-time strength of the regular Armed Forces currently hovering around 159,000, employees of Tesco or NHS Scotland are probably more familiar to most of us than Service personnel.

Since the end of combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014, the Armed Forces have largely been off the civilian radar. When they have come to our attention, it’s generally because of the helpful if slightly hum-drum stuff of Military Aid to the Civil Authorities rather than the heroics of battle. Building Nightingale hospitals or dealing with floods might show off the can-do spirit of the Forces but lacks a certain derring-do.

A recent exception has been Operation Pitting, the August rescue mission to evacuate thousands from Kabul following the unanticipated Taliban advance. Suddenly, Forces’ personnel were more than first responders with weapons-training. The public was getting some bangs – or the prospect of some bangs – for its buck. Or rather for the £39.8 billion annual defence budget.

Jo(e) Public seems unbothered if the Armed Forces remain largely invisible, venturing out for crowd-pleasing displays of clockwork-like ceremony, such as at the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral. After all, despite their comparatively low profile, in the Hansard Society’s 2019 Audit of Public Engagement, 74 per cent were confident that the Forces would act in the public’s best interest. The Government scored 33 per cent. The favourable findings reflect stellar levels of public support for the military ever since the late Blair era.

Neither the Government, some MPs nor some Ministry of Defence civilian staff seem fully to share the public’s admiration. Instead they appear actively to dislike a culture which has made Britain’s forces globally respected military players, reflected by the Royal Marines’ recent performance against the US Marine Corps. (One American military blog reports that the RM are the US troops’ favourite foreign military to train with, not least because they ‘almost drank us under the table’.)

On Monday, Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, had ‘full and frank discussion about a range of issues’ with senior Army commanders. Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, Army Chief General, stated there were ‘core and cultural issues’ which need addressing. The carpeting seems to have been prompted, in part, by a Defence Committee Report, Protecting Those Who Protect Us: Women in the Armed Forces, largely based on a survey of Servicewomen and female veterans.

Almost two-thirds of female personnel have experienced bullying, harassment and discrimination, including sexual assault. Such findings are at odds with the Army’s Values and Standards, formalised in 2000, which prioritised ‘respect for others’. Institutional soul-searching and wheel reinvention can be expected over the coming months, together with a long overdue overhaul of complaints’ procedures.

When not inevitably banging on about career-family life balance, the report also stated that ‘without compromising physical standards for ground close combat roles’, women’s fitness tests ‘should have due regard for hormonal changes linked to pregnancy and menopause’. Although the levels of abuse in the report produced shock-horror headlines, less widely reported was that 90 per cent of women who participated in the voluntary survey would recommend a career in the Forces to other women and 84 per cent said their overall experience of Forces’ life was good or very good.

The Defence Committee tut-tutted that aspects of their culture highlight the Armed Forces are still a man’s world. On Tuesday this point was almost conceded by General Sir Nick Carter, the outgoing Chief of the Defence Staff, who observed to members that a ‘laddish culture’ was not exactly discouraged, not least because ‘ultimately our soldiers have to go close and personal with the enemy’.

For all the CDS’s focus on the ‘long term cultural change’ needed to quell anti-social behaviour within its ranks, what is being overlooked is the military’s main mission: defeating the country’s enemies, often by killing them.

Those who would prefer to see an inclusive rainbow flag rather than the Union Jack flying permanently over MoD’s main building seem to forget the demands of combat effectiveness.

In the past few decades successive governments have been keen that the Armed Forces should reflect the civilian society they serve. Why? Two-thirds of civilians are overweight; one third obese. The 2020 British Social Attitudes survey highlights that the proportion who agree that schools should teach children to obey authority fell from 85 per cent in 2004 to 72 per cent in 2019. This suggests that some might not have much truck with hierarchical, rules-based organisations.

Reflecting society is often a euphemism for recruiting more women and people from ethnic minorities. For all the Forces’ talk of ‘technical trades’ and playing down combat, most women would not contemplate joining up any more than they would glove up and get into a boxing ring with Tyson Fury. Nascent research suggests the majority of Our Girls already have family links within the Services.

Whether nature or nurture, most civilian women have no problem accepting the Forces remain a male domain, just like Lord’s cricket ground or the construction industry. Perhaps the MoD should start asking them. After all, despite being ruled by their hormones – a message implicit in the Defence Committee’s report – women taxpayers finance the defence budget.

In these woke-not-bloke days, laddish culture is of course only a step or two away from toxic masculinity.

As the country gathers around its war memorials on Sunday, the service and sacrifice of the fallen, their stoicism, resilience and courage, will be contemplated.

There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, listed on those memorials commemorating Britain’s war dead who fought in uniform for Queen (or King) and country.

Lest we forget, with very few exceptions, all of them are men.

Interview with Tobias Ellwood: Johnson lacks “serious expertise, people with political acumen, over in the Number 10 machine”

11 Nov

Boris Johnson does not have the advisers he needs at Number 10, has exposed himself to comparison with the Hungarian leader, Viktor Orban, and is “losing sight of what parliamentarians and the Conservative Party would naturally do and see as right to do”.

These are among the lessons drawn by Tobias Ellwood, Chairman of the Defence Select Committee, from last week’s debacle on Commons Standards, when Tory MPs were whipped to vote in support of a course of action which only hours later the Government abandoned.

Ellwood, who abstained in that vote, has sat for Bournemouth East since 2005. He protests at the sacking of Robert Buckland in the last Cabinet reshuffle, and laments that the Government is failing to use the talents of the 2019 intake of Conservative MPs, and indeed has no idea how to set about doing so.

As a specialist in international relations, Ellwood is deeply worried by the lack of resolve shown by the United States in Afghanistan, and by the West’s lack of strategy in the face of Russia and China, but sees opportunities for British leadership.

He warns against allowing the argument over the Northern Ireland Protocol to become a running sore which prevents the much needed defence co-operation between Britain and France:

“There’s a 1930s feel to the world. Weaker international institutions, countries weaponising, the authoritarianism on the Right, lack of western leadership.”

ConHome: “In your Sun on Sunday piece last weekend you wrote,

‘the Government thought it acceptable to overrule the punishment [of Owen Paterson] and rewrite the rules. If this happened in Poland or Hungary, we would not be surprised. But in Britain?’

“Orban is corrupting Hungarian government and society. Is that an apt comparison to make about Boris Johnson and the Government?”

Ellwood: “It’s a warning. It’s to say, ‘Is this who we want to be compared to?’ That itself can’t be a good thing. In that article I mention a couple of times ‘the mother of Parliaments’, how proud we are of the journey we’ve taken over centuries.

“But that journey of advancement has actually almost stopped. We’ve refused to look at further ways we can continue that journey on.”

ConHome: “What are the most dangerous things Number 10 is doing?”

Ellwood: “It’s losing sight of what parliamentarians and the Conservative Party would naturally do and see as right to do. Clearly there was something wrong with this decision. You yourself pointed that out.

“So our loyalty was tested, 250 of my colleagues actually held their noses and walked through those lobbies because they somehow assumed it was in the interests of the party, and clearly it wasn’t.

“So two questions there. Why, first of all, did the executive think they could do this?

“And secondly why weren’t more of my colleagues willing to stand up and say ‘No, this is actually wrong’?

“To give them their due, I can’t actually find a single Member of Parliament who did not express views to the Whips’ Office that this was completely wrong.

“So somehow something went wrong with the reporting mechanism to Number 10, to say ‘Don’t pursue this route’.”

ConHome: “This is part of a wider pattern?”

Ellwood: “That’s the concern I have. It’s part of a wider pattern, of us veering away from sound policy, of explaining to the British people what needs to happen, the difficult decisions.

“And two great examples where you could win over the public, actually I can think of three.

“Firstly to do with Trump and Afghanistan. Much easier to say ‘Bring troops home’ – that’s a vote winner – rather than explaining to the American people why keeping 2,500 troops there is actually in our longer-term interest strategically.

“Bringing troops home shows success, job done. Clearly it’s more complicated to explain to the electorate that keeping troops there, in that neck of the woods, between Russia, Iran, China, not a bad bit of real estate to keep control of, it will take time though, it’s going to take much more patience than we’re currently showing at the moment.

“That’s one example. The other one is DfID, the cuts in that. You explain to the British people, as has been done since that cut was made, that actually we lose leverage, we get replaced by Russia and China with their projects, or extremism then fills in, because of us pulling out.

“The British people would actually say, ‘Well, that’s wisely spent.’ But if you sell to the British people, ‘We’re going to take that money and we’re going to slide it to Red Wall seats,’ well which is going to win?

“Now ultimately the needle has moved on the support for DfID funding, because it’s actually part of our DNA, it’s what we do on the international stage.

“It’s a wiser, more cognitive approach to taking the electorate with you. It’s more complicated, it’s more taxing, it’s not simple, it’s not banner bumper stickers or banner headlines, but it’s what we should be doing.”

ConHome: “You also wrote that ‘at every reshuffle, MPs who have become experts in their fields are demoted or sidelined in favour of the uber-loyal.’ Who were you thinking of?”

Ellwood: “I mentioned Robert Buckland. Everybody was astonished by this decision. Everybody expected him to become potentially Home Secretary or certainly to stay in Cabinet.

“Go back to balance if you like of the spectrum within our party, he’s seen as a moderate, a sound voice, willing not just to toe the party line but occasionally to add another dimension to it.

“That’s just one of many examples. I’ll just mention another. A Cabinet member, now doing brilliantly, but it took 11 years to get there. What a lot of patience you have to go through. How many sycophantic, underarm-bowling questions do you have to ask?

“What often happens is that people lose patience with the machine itself.”

ConHome: “Are we not recruiting enough high-grade candidates? Because this will put good people off.”

Ellwood: “It will put good people off. I won’t make a judgment about not recruiting them, because I think we’ve got some really good talent on our backbenches.

“But they’re not utilised. And the difference between this new intake that’s just come in, particularly as we suddenly got all these Red Wall seats, so these are people who are running businesses, they’re doing, you know, exciting things.

“If they are not utilised, you know, they’ve come in to be part of politics, to represent their constituents, but to affect the political agenda.

“And if all they’re doing for years is just ask simplistic questions which are just handed out by the Whips’ Office, that’s not really utilising their strengths that they bring to the Chamber.

“So what I’m suggesting is this, which I think there would be a lot of appetite for. You come in and you’re invited to suggest a spectrum of interest for your career.

“It might be local government, it might be health and social services, it might be education, it might be science, it could be in my case international affairs.

“And within that spectrum there are things that you could do. Not necessarily being a minister, but certainly things which will allow you to advance and progress with an interest, and to influence policy.

“But no. There is no HR. There is no managing of anybody’s career whatsoever.

“So you end up, and this leads into the very topical debate at the moment, with people finding outside interests, and that also affects how this place looks.”

ConHome: “Were you thinking of yourself? You’re an expert in your field, you were a minister, you’re now not a minister.”

Ellwood: “No, not at all, because being on a committee is another great way in which you can affect the agenda, hold Government to account, and come up with ideas.

“And certainly being the chair of that. If you are a round peg in a round hole you are very, very lucky indeed.”

ConHome: “Can Johnson revive his Government, though. He’s just had a reshuffle. But can he revive it without sweeping changes in his team, both his team in Cabinet and in Downing Street, to take more account of what the backbenchers are now thinking and saying?”

Ellwood: “I think we do lack some serious expertise, people with political acumen, over in the Number 10 machine. It’s a tough gig, but you need to have your political antennae about what does and doesn’t work.

“Now on the actual team of the reshuffle, it’s that wider picture of making sure you take advantage of the skill sets that you actually have.”

ConHome: “Fundamentally, do you have confidence in Boris Johnson’s leadership?”

Ellwood: “I worked for Boris Johnson in the FCO, and he brings an element of energy and vibrancy to the party which I’ve not seen for a long time.

“And in today’s cut and thrust of 24-hour news that’s actually important, that he’s actually inspired a lot of people to vote Conservative, in a way that many other leaders have actually failed to do.

“But you need to be supported then by genuine strategy, when it comes to policy formation. For me there’s a gap in the market in the area I’m particularly interested in. What is Britain’s place in the world? What does global Britain mean?

“There is a leadership role, I think, that the world is calling out for.

“He needs the team around him to support the energy he provides.”

ConHome: “After David Amess was murdered, you said that MPs should pause holding face to face surgeries. Do you think that pause should now cease, and if not, when should it cease?”

Ellwood: “I look from a security and defence perspective. Clearly the situation has changed, we can reassess, and everybody has taken stock of their own situation, so it’s right that we can then downgrade or reassess the situation.”

ConHome: “You’ve been a soldier, and soldiers have to confront danger and death, but you’ve had two very personal encounters with it.

“You wrote last weekend about shaking hands with the Taliban, who were harbouring the group who killed your brother. What effect did his murder have on the way you think about security?”

Ellwood: “I don’t go past a barrier now outside the gates here without thinking about the wider security environment. I think the sadness of the 9/11 anniversary with all those documentaries we saw again – we are no better at tackling extremism, if we’re honest about it.

“We’re no better at dealing with the ideology that encourages somebody to put on a suicide vest to kill themselves, to kill westerners in the belief that they’re going to be rewarded with a place in paradise.

“And until we deal with that – and that’s not for us so much to deal with the interpretation of the Koran, that’s actually a wider theological challenge for the Islamic world to deal with too, but until we’ve done that then I’m afraid ISIS-K, Boko Haram, Al-Shabab, Al-Qaeda, they will continue to be able to recruit.”

ConHome: “You also fought to save the life of PC Palmer.”

Ellwood: “That happened in 2017, it was a reminder again. Bali was 2002, 9/11 2001, David Amess 2021. There is a correlation between all those events, which link myself and indeed other people in our community together, and shows you what an enormous challenge still exists.

“We’ve now absented ourselves from Afghanistan, handing the country back to the very insurgents that we went in to defeat. When I met the Taliban it was very, very clear why they are trying to still pursue a ruthless, quite a tough interpretation of Sharia law, because if they didn’t they would actually haemorrhage more people to ISIS-K.”

ConHome: “You’re an interventionist, both for security reasons and for moral reasons: you’re helping to spread and sustain liberal democratic values by intervening.

“Do you feel that you’re part of a beleaguered minority now – that the trend here in Britain as in America has been to withdraw, to try to cut ourselves off from the rest of the world?”

Ellwood: “We’re feeling very, very bruised. It’s been provoked by Covid as well, our retreat from global exposure, becoming more isolated, more protectionist.

“Populism also is on the rise – why should we have a responsibility for what’s going on abroad? Let’s look after ourselves. Times are tough here.

“From where I sit, we’ve got a bumpy decade ahead. There’s a 1930s feel to the world. Weaker international institutions, countries weaponising, the authoritarianism on the Right, lack of western leadership.

“On top of that you’ve got three other factors. Climate change, which is going to bring its own scale of problems. Biblical movements of people that are displaced.

“Advances in technology that then allow non-state actors to incite real harm onto communities. And the rise of extremism.

“And if Russia wants to harm Britain, it can just play with the gas taps and watch the prices ripple through and cause problems.

“Look how that one ship caught in the Suez Canal caused problems across the world. I tried to get my lawn mower repaired the other day, and they couldn’t get the parts. They said, ‘You take your choice, it’s either Covid, Brexit or it’s that Suez Canal blockage.’

“How easy it is to cause harm to economies using non-military means.

“And there’s a gap in the market for international leadership. We’ve seen America retreat slightly, give up essentially in Afghanistan. This was the biggest military alliance arguably ever formed and we were defeated by an insurgency armed with AK-47s and RPGs, and we just decided to go home.

“So where is America’s commitment? If they’re not going to step up, we had to do it a couple of times in the last century. Different circumstances, I recognise that.”

ConHome: “What about NATO?”

Ellwood: “I was in Norfolk, Virginia only two weeks ago, headquarters for NATO in the US, scratching their heads, what is their purpose?

“We don’t do out of area operations any more. So there is a purpose, you go to Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, they’ll say absolutely, NATO is critical. NATO itself will retreat to what it knows best, dealing with the old Cold War-esque challenges.

“Putin has a strategy. President Xi has a clear strategy on the international stage. The West lacks one. We don’t have a strategy. We have an attitude towards China, towards Russia, but we don’t have a strategy.

“And again, this is Britain, going back to Boris Johnson and what Britain can actually do, this is where we normally have an insight and an understanding, a means, a desire to help shape the world.”

ConHome: “Our relationship with France is currently extremely bad. We and the French are the two military powers in Europe. How bad is it and what should we do about it?”

Ellwood: “So this is a great example of us enjoying an old rivalry that goes back centuries. What we forget is that as we fail to reconcile our differences with continental Europe, our adversaries are enjoying this blue-on-blue, which is essentially what it is.

“We and the French are not working together to recognise what Russia is doing in the Arctic, what China is doing in the South China Sea, and AUKUS was a great illustration of how things could have been done better.

“Absolutely right for Australia to move from diesel electric to something better, you’re offered a Ford Focus and suddenly you see a Ferrari, which one are you going to take?

“You’re going to go for the upgrade nuclear deal, nuclear powered, so France should accept that. But if you want a strategy to deal with the South China Sea, finally standing up to what they’re doing in that neck of the woods, which is pretty concerning, then include Japan, India, include the United States, Britain and France, and that’s the quad that should be invited, allowing AUKUS to be a procurement process.”

ConHome: “If we’re going to have a better relationship with the French, is that really consistent, given the French view of themselves as one of the guardians of the integrity of the EU, with moving Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol?”

Ellwood: “You then move into a very awkward space. This was always going to be a problem. I served in Northern Ireland and it’s not until you go there that you realise how critical trade of the entire island is in keeping the peace and helping both economies.

“We need to make sure we solve this, because it’s turning into a sore, which is then used by other countries to prevent us drawing a line and finally moving forward and advancing, where we don’t then say I’m a Brexiteer or I’m this, but this is the norm.

“We are still in transition, I’m afraid. And as long as that is the case, it will poison discussion on other, bigger issues, such as our reflections on international security that we need to be having with our continental partners.”

Ben Roback: COP26 may be the only saving grace for Sleepy Joe’s presidency – in a thoroughly chaotic year

3 Nov

Ben Roback is Vice President of Public Affairs at Sard Verbinnen & Co.

At this stage in his presidency, one gets the feeling that trips abroad are a welcome reprieve for President Biden. The political tide continues to turn slowly against him, and the list of domestic challenges is growing. A bruising defeat in Virginia’s gubernatorial race, a stalling legislative agenda, and sinking approval ratings are enough to give the president three big headaches as he returns from COP26 on Air Force One.

When will ‘America is back’ start to mean something?

Biden has carried a consistent message as he tours world capitals and global conference like COP26, delivering three simple words: “America is back”. He is right, and US presence at global forums like COP26 is an important reminder that American once again recognises an international leadership role. But on the other side of the coin, the shambolic departure from Afghanistan proved that Biden’s foreign policy agenda might yet turn out to be as unpredictable as Donald Trump’s.

Biden relies perhaps too heavily on just “showing up”. In his closing remarks, he fired a veiled criticism at presidents Xi and Putin for ignoring the climate conference. “We showed up… and by showing up we’ve had a profound impact on how the rest of the world is looking at the United States and its leadership role,” he added.

With John Kerry by his side as Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, this president is uniquely well placed to be the driving force in a truly global fight against the irreversible impacts of climate change. The irony of the presidential motorcades clogging up Glasgow’s streets will not be lost on climate activists, nor the arrival and departure of Air Force One.

Is it enough just for the United States to show up? It is not reasonable to expect the power of the president to be sufficient for adversaries like Xi and Putin to change their minds on coming to COP. But having shown up, there was no major or game-changing intervention from the United States. With so many world leaders in one place, it is difficult for any one individual to make an impact or leave their mark. It is possible that the sheer saturation of power in the room results in an altogether forgettable event. After all, everyone is largely saying the same thing.

What was clear at COP26 is that, notwithstanding his good will and convivial demeanour with allies, this president lacks the presence of a Trump or oratory gift of an Obama. Poor attention to detail and an inability to stay focused during speeches has long been levelled at the presidential septuagenarian and dozing off with the eyes of the world watching is an unfortunate coincidence for the man whose opponents call “Sleepy Joe”. Biden can claim to have had a successful summit, but soon enough just “showing up” will need to be replaced with meaningful action.

The three big issues facing the returning president

Biden’s current malaise can be best split into three.

First, electoral defeats. The timing of COP26 was awkward for Biden given it coincided with a handful of elections at home. In New Jersey, the battle between incumbent Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy in New Jersey and Republican Jack Ciattarelli is still undecided. The Republican led by just over 1,000 votes out of more than 2.36 million cast in a race that Democrats had expected to win.

The more stark result of the night came in Virginia, where Republican Glenn Youngkin defied polling and historic trends to defeat Democrat Terry McAuliffe. In the short term, it presents a major warning sign for Democrats heading into the 2022 midterms.

Youngkin has arguably created a winning formula for Conservatives running in towns, counties and states where Trump’s popularity amongst the voting population is low, but high amongst registered Republicans. Youngkin walked a meticulously fine line between mainstream Republican talking points – culture wars, ‘critical race theory in schools, and an ailing presidential agenda in Washington – while embracing Trump from a safe distance. He neither criticised the former president nor stood next to him in rallies.

Democrats expect to suffer in next year’s midterms, if nothing because historical precedent dictates that the incumbent party customarily suffers a bloody nose from the electorate at the first available opportunity after winning the White House. Virginia’s loss is unlikely to prompt a major strategic rethink at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) or in the White House, but one should never underestimate the impact of a shock local result.

After all, Downing Street ripped up its entire housebuilding strategy for the country after losing Chesham and Amersham. But it will alarm Democrats running in districts and states formerly considered “safe”, while putting wind in the sails of Trump who endorsed and campaigned for a victorious candidate in a state that he lost in the general election by 10 points.

Second, a stalling legislative agenda. Democrats have spent weeks arguing amongst themselves about the finer details of the White House’s vast Build Better Act. The overnight electoral setbacks will add volume to the voices arguing the Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill needs to slow down its legislative timetable and better engage centrists instead of pandering to the left.

Third, sinking approval ratings. A stalling domestic agenda is usually manifests into election losses. According to FiveThirtyEight, a majority of Americans (50.8 per cent) now disapprove of Biden whilst 42.8 per cent approve. There is some comfort in knowing that, in the October of their first year, Trump’s approval was lower at 37 per cent and President Obama’s similar on 53 per cent (Gallup). But whilst Biden’s term average to date is a more respectable 51 per cent, but his popularity is on a clear downward trend.

Biden can reasonably claim to have had a good COP26 summit. He relies perhaps too heavily on just “showing up” purely based on the fact that his predecessor too often either failed to show up or used global forums to agitate against international institutions. But with COP26 behind him, Biden returns home to a divided America and, more pressingly in the short term, a deeply divided party.

Elizabeth Campbell: Rehousing takes time – so we need to get Afghanistan evacuee support right

19 Oct

Cllr Elizabeth Campbell is the Leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council.

As Boris Johnson wrapped up his speech to close the 2021 Conference in Manchester, I couldn’t help but reflect on the predicament local authorities find themselves in, here in London.

For weeks now, Councils of all political persuasions (yes, even Lib Dems control Councils here in the capital) have been all hands on deck to help evacuees from Afghanistan who started arriving after military troops pulled out of Kabul in August.

The Prime Minister said:

“I am really proud to be part of a Conservative government that will welcome 20,000 Afghan people who risked their lives to guide us and translate for us.”

Well, if operation Warm Welcome is to be the success it should be, we need Government – in particular the Home Office – to remain committed until every last evacuee is rehoused and settled in the UK.

So far, truth be told, we have been rather underwhelmed.

This is not yet another tale of yet another Council whinging about funding. It is a tale of how local authorities, like my own, step forward and take on challenges presented to them, and work with communities, volunteers, charities, and other organisations to meet those challenges – often rapidly, dynamically, and in difficult circumstances.

Here in Kensington and Chelsea, we launched an evacuee support team, a bespoke service set up from scratch pulling resources from across all departments and projects. We did this in a matter of days, with officers stepping forward from other roles, working extra hours in many cases, and teaming up with those in our professional services such as social care and education.

This team moved into hotels and has now offered support to some 800 individuals, from helping to establish ID and making sure people have clothes and medication, to helping people with directions, things to do with their children, and signposting services that organisations can provide across London.

We didn’t do this for recognition, we did it because we care.

I have visited the hotels currently in operation and catering for evacuees. Listening to harrowing stories from evacuees, it is impossible not to care about the individuals as they tell us how much they want to get on here in the UK, contribute, find work, educate their children, and support each other.

I am also extremely proud of the staff who work tirelessly to support them. It is my intention to make sure we maintain a level of support for families, but it is growing more difficult by the day.

We are now being advised that some families may be in hotels for many months to come, perhaps even longer, as suitable housing is found around the country for them. Government will of course recognise that hotels are not a place for families to reside long term, especially if some people are suffering from trauma or have medical issues or disabilities.

We hope the Government will be pulling out all the stops to rehouse them quickly, not delay and dither, or seek to blame local authorities for not coming forward – when many have already stepped forward to help, including us.

We want to work together, take joint responsibility, and we want to see Government get the funding right, get the support right, communicate better with the families and the organisations involved in the support.

If this is a long-term effort – which it will be – let’s recognise this and make sure local authorities have the support to lead locally and on the ground. We are the key to making sure Operation Warm Welcome remains just what we all wanted it to be.

Garvan Walshe: Germany’s new government may be tougher on Russia and China. Which would suit our own. But there’s a snag.

30 Sep

Garvan Walshe is a former National and International Security Policy Adviser to the Conservative Party.

Foreign policy rarely features much at election time, and Germany’s election last Sunday was no exception. It scarcely appeared during the three Chancellor candidates’ debates, conducted against a background of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Franco-American spat over AUKUS. The result, however, sets the stage for an change in German foreign policy to which the UK will need to adapt.

The centre-left SPD came out narrowly on top with 26 per cent of the vote and 207 seats in the Bundestag. Their Olaf Scholz is likely to move to the chancellery once coalition negotiations conclude.

Angela Merkel’s successor-to-be, Armin Laschet, suffered a true shocker. He gave his CDU/CSU Uniuon their worst ever result ever (24 per cent of the vote and 196 bundestag seats).

Next came the Greens, up a third to 15 per cent and 118 seats, and the liberal FDP (92 seats and 12 per cent).

The far right AfD and far left Die Linke got 10 per cent and five per cent respectively, as their core electorate of elderly former GDR residents dwindles. Fans of the Schlewsig-Holstein question will be delighted to observe the seat won by Stefan Seidler of the Danish minority SSW.

The big electoral shift is not so much the revival of the SPD, up a fifth on their 2017 result, or unmet expectations of the Greens, who did not do as well as their early summer polling suggested, but the decline of the CDU/CSU. This was partly down to an uninspiring and gaffe- prone candidate, but also because of its difficulties in keeping its vote together at a time of electoral fragmentation.

An important strand of the CDU has come to think that a hard-boiled national conservative politics could consolidate the right-wing vote by winning back supporters lost to the AfD. Friedrich Merz, who narrowly failed to become CDU leader after Merkel’s successor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was forced out, epitomised that thinking. This week’s results put its futility beyond doubt. The CDU picked up 80,000 votes from the AfD this time around, but lost almost three million to the SPD, Greens and FDP. If even ultra-moderate Laschet was too right-wing for that many CDU voters, it is hard to see how an AfD-lite offering could not have done even worse.

This election has moved German politics in a liberal, pro-European, pro-green direction. Norbert Röttgen is the CDU man best placed to take advantage. Yet after its battering, the CDU/CSU is now divided about whether even to take part in coalition negotiations. Though Laschet claimed a mandate to enter talks with the Greens and the FDP, many in his party, including the influential Bavarian sister party leader, Markus Söder, are wary. After sixteen years in power, an exhausted Union could do with some time in opposition to refresh itself.

Though a CDU-led government remains an outside possibility, the most likely coalition will be the so-called “traffic light” made up of the SPD (red), FDP (yellow) and the Greens. In a savvy move, the smaller Greens and FDP have decided to forge a joint neogtiating platform (together they acccount for 210 seats, four more than the SPD) that they will then put to the bigger parties’ leaderships.

And although Greens and FDP differ on economics, their positions on foreign affairs are much closer than might be expected. With the Green co-leader, Annalena Baerbock, tipped for the foreign ministry, German foreign policy is not set for radical revolution (this is Germany after all), but it can expect to receive a sizeable shove.

Both parties want to see more foreign policy made at the EU level, and by qualified majorities (rather than unanimity as it is now). The FDP are explicitly in favour of a European army. And while the Greens have a pacifist inheritance that makes them skittish about anything involving nuclear weapons, they have come around to multilateral military deployments abroad. Watch for an effort to change the EU’s treaties to bring all this about. If the new coalition is with the SDP, policy towards Hungary and Poland will also toughen.

Beyond Europe, both these parties are also tougher on Russia and China than both the SPD (whose former leader works for a Russian state oil firm) and the CDU, more focused on human rights, and less on industrial exports. Though they are unlikely to be strong enough to stop the Nordstream 2 pipeline in Germany, expect them to push to have it subjected to tougher EU-level regulation.

Overall, this is an agenda with which the UK can work well — provided it realises that the new government will be even more disposed to conduct its foreign policy through the EU. Bilateral relations will remain polite, of course, but London will find it much easier to pursue its interests if it comes to terms with the growing EU foreign and defence establishment in Brussels and engages with it.