The centre-right is in retreat across the Anglosphere. Why are our Tories the last ones standing?

23 May

Personally, I can’t stand Australians. I mean, Kylie is lovely, and I was very sad to see Shane Warne die. But I had one once as an exchange student for three weeks, and he was one of the most genuinely unlikable people I have ever met. He confirmed, in my mind, that Aussies are uniformly arrogant, self-obsessed, and unworthy of being in Eurovision.

Not that I’m still bitter about the Ashes or anything.

Nevertheless, my political antennae have been turned towards the Antipodes over the last couple of days via the Australian federal election. Bad news for our sister parties in the Liberal/National Coalition. Scott Morrison, erstwhile tourist board rep and Aussie Prime Minister, lost power to the Labor party under Anthony Albanese, who look set to take power in a minority government.

Since no foreign election can be allowed to go past without commentators immediately using it to confirm all their pre-existing theories and prejudices, it falls upon me to say that this defeat leaves the United Kingdom as the only country in the Anglosphere with a centre-right government.

Not so long ago, ConHome was celebrating that our cousins in Canada, New Zealand, and Australia mirrored us in being led by broadly similar stalwarts of the centre-right. Whether Stephen Harper in Ottowa, John Key in Wellington, or Tony Abbott in Perth, the consensus was for free-markets and spending control from the Rockies to the Outback, and via David Cameron’s Downing Street. Post-2008, Tories were de rigeur amongst the English-Speaking Peoples

And yet now we see a sea of red across our former Dominions, punctured only by the dark hue of Justin Trudeau’s latest attempt at Blackface. The simpering posterboy for international wokery took power in 2015, followed by Guardian golden gal Jacinda Ardern in 2017, and now Albanese. One shudders to remember that we almost joined them with Jeremy Corbyn only five short years ago.

Looked at together, the narrative writes itself. The Great Recession in 2008 sobered up the sensible folk of the Anglosphere from the free-spending lefties they had tolerated when times were good. So they voted blue. But years of tough Tory medicine have ground them down, and the comforts of the left seem attractive again – the ice cream after the tonsils are removed.

However, like any simple explanation, this ignores much essential info. For one thing, the Conservatives took power in Canada in 2006, and not with a majority until 2011, whereas the Liberals and Nationals only took power Down Under in 2013. That was after losing it in 2007 under John Howard. We know from the Coalition’s own experience that changes in government not because of some newfound enthusiasm for Milton Friedman, but because of economic turbulence and unpopular incumbents.

Moreover, the centre-right only lost power in New Zealand in 2017 because of a deal between Saint Ardern and the Kiwi cousins UKIP and the Greens. The Nationals remained the largest party, with a larger vote share than Johnson managed in 2019. Meanwhile, Albanese looks set to come to power on only 33 percent of the vote, and Trudeau has polled behind the Conservatives at the last two elections. Neither represents a surge in support for the left.

The Ardern example is also pertinent. She has commanded glowing reviews from the global media and won over 50 percent of the vote in 2020, coming on the back of huge personal popularity due to her handling of the Wellington terrorist attack and of the early stages of the pandemic. But she is now behind in the polls and looks set to lose to the Nationals next time. From that, we can take the most obvious message of this weekend’s vote: that different countries have different politics.

Of course, it is easy to feature spot. Various Liberal MPs in middle-class, leafy constituencies – think Surrey, but with more kangaroos –  lost their seats to independent female candidates campaigning on a platform of tackling climate-change and cleaning up politics. Those Tory MPs with slim majorities and the Lib Dems breathing down their necks in the Blue Wall might want to take note.

Or they might not. Morrison’s government had a successful economic record, with low unemployment, and weathered the pandemic in a broadly popular manner, even if it’s approach was rather draconian. But the Liberal/National Coalition had only just scraped home in 2016 and 2019 and had the natural baggage of any administration in power for too long. Their defeat was a long time coming.

So was that of Bill English in 2017, or Stephen Harper in 2015. That they did not all win or lose office at the same time should tell you the most obvious lesson: each government was elected on a particular platforms, for particular reasons, in particular circumstances. Platforms, reasons, and circumstances that were country-specific, even if comparisons can be drawn.

If there is a question to ask, it is as to why our Conservative government has lasted longer than any of its Anglosphere cousins. Partly that is down to electoral systems and election frequency. Australia and New Zealand both have elections every three years, whilst the former uses a run-off system for elections, and the latter the Additional Member System beloved of Holyrood, Germany, and Politics A-Level classes.

But we have hardly struggled when it comes to election frequency in recent years. Neither has Canada, which also uses first-past-the-post. The Government’s hold on power is also not because of frequent changes in Prime Minister, either. The Liberals dumped Abbott for the loathsome Malcolm Turnbull in 2015, and almost lost, and the more appealing Morrison barely won in 2019. Changing leaders is no sliver bullet – for every John Major there is a Gordon Brown.

Instead, it is because our Tories have reinvented themselves more successfully in office than any of their equivalents. A party elected in 2010 to implement spending cuts won re-election in 2019 pledging to overturn them. Brexit was a boon, and no country other than Britain could produce a Boris Johnson. Even if he was born in New York. But the basic point stands: in its own messy way, the party moved to meet the voters just fast enough to stay in office.

Many bemoan this ideological slipperiness, calling for a return to proper Conservativism. What that means in practice is usually what ever a grumpy Telegraph op-ed says it is this week. Yet if the basic, fundamental reason for voting Tory is keeping the other lot out, then a little flexibility is surely worth it. I put up with some spending increases in 2019 to keep Corbyn out of Number 10 – and Morrison, English, Harper et al would have bitten off their arms for Johnson’s success.

And to show what a nonsense drawing spurious parallels is, I shall finally turn to that semi-detached member of the English-Speaking Peoples’ that I have so far neglected. Yes, that erstwhile Great Satan and Home of the Brave, the United States. I have not done so so far as it so obviously debunks any idea of a uniform Anglosphere trend. It moved to the left when others moved to the right, and then reverse-ferreted in spectacular fashion of two successive occasions. It may yet do so again.

Obama’s victory in 2008, or Trump’s in 2016, or Biden’s in 2020, was as much a product of tiredness with the incumbent as it was the personality of the winning candidate. From that, we can learn the most important lesson about elections: in a democracy, no party can last in power forever. Even Japan’s previously unassailable Liberal Democratic Party or Sweden’s Social Democrats have seen their hegemony challenged. The former was once in government undefeated from 1955 to 1993; the latter was in government continuously from 1932 to 1972.

Neither major party has ever achieved such a prolonged hold on power in this country since the introduction of universal suffrage, and all to the good. As awful as Labour governments can be, no Conservative government deserves a monopoly on power if it allows itself to become exhausted and unresponsive. The real message of Australia’s election for our Tories is that government is a responsibility, not a gift – and it is in their hands how long they can hold onto it for.

Garvan Walshe: Finland and Sweden’s NATO application shows how much Russia has already lost 

12 May

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

Finland and Sweden applying to join NATO is more evidence that Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has been a monstrous mistake. Moscow has maintained an effective veto on Swedish and Finnish membership since ether Cold War. Now, with Russian troops bogged down in the Donbas, Helsinki and Stockholm can join while Russia’s too busy to do much about it.

It also complicates Putin’s tactical situation.  NATO forces could soon be positioned to open a second front north of St Petersburg, limiting Russia’s ability to intimidate the Baltic States, and to broaden the directions from which Murmansk on the Arctic coast can be subject to counterattacks.

Instead of Finland defending a 830 mile border with Russia, Russia will now have to defend another 830 miles of border with NATO. The island of Gotland, from which the Baltic Sea can be controlled, will be a NATO, not just a Swedish, island.

But the most important difference is geopolitical. Look at the globe from the top, and list the countries across the Pole from Russia: the United States (through Alaska), Canada, Greenland, Iceland, the UK, Norway, Sweden and Finland. This arc sweeps down through the Baltic States, Poland and the other countries that escaped Soviet domination in 1989, to Ukraine. All except Ukraine are in NATO – and Ukraine is inflicting the biggest defeat of Russia since the Japanese in 1905.

Apart from the US and Canada, which must also pay attention to Chinese ambitions in the Pacific, all these states see resisting Russian aggression as their main defence policy task. 

This will remain the case until the Russian state comes to understand that its purpose should be to improve the lives of Russian people, and that this is hindered, not helped, by paranoid militarism. Yet that process won’t even begin until Putin leaves office, and could well be reversed, even if he’s followed by a liberalising successor. Both Tsar Alexander II’s and Boris Yeltsin’s openings were overturned.  

These first-line states, of which the UK, Poland and Ukraine are the main military powers, can expect to maintain decades of containment of Moscow. As well as strengthening their own cooperation, they need to keep the rest of the Western alliance involved. 

Even setting aside the risk of a second Trump administration, a United States that returns to isolationism, or is simply focused on China, would be unable to help mount a defence against Russian aggression in the way it has this time. Continental European powers such as France and Germany under less immediate threat to Russia need to be persuaded who their real friends are.

The German government is divided. While Annalena Baerbock, its Foreign Minister, has been steadfast in her support for Ukraine, Olaf Scholz appears to lack the courage of his convictions, and needs continually to be pushed to live up to the Zeitenwende he announced immediately after Russia invaded.

And as Emmanuel’s Macron’s speech on Monday showed, France still struggles to shrug off its reflex of seeking somehow to involve Russia in contributing to security in Europe. This thinking has long been obsolete: a democratic Germany inside the EU has long made a Russian balance to Prussia unnecessary, and Poland’s integration into the West made it unsustainable.

But winning the political battles in France and Germany (and maintaining Mario Draghi’s new pro-Ukrainian consensus in Italy) will take more concerted diplomatic effort. It’s been entertaining to watch the friendly rivalry by former European schoolmates as they compete for visits to Kyiv and videotaped addresses by Volodomyr Zelensky. Whether they are Anglo-Swedish NLAWs (anti-tank weapons), US Javelins, German Panzerfausts or French CAESAR howitzers, all contribute to Ukraine’s fight for freedom. This is not a race, but a collective effort in which all democracies should take part.  

Finland and Sweden’s entry into NATO, accompanied by British security guarantees for both countries until the NATO accession process is complete, is one such initiative. Denmark joining the EU’s defence policy (it currently has an opt out: a referendum is due on 1 June, and ‘join’ has a 20 point lead) is another.  The requirement is not necessarily unity of institutions, but unity of action, which must be pursued through NATO, EU initiatives and the British-led Joint Expeditionary force. 

Next winter, when inflation and high energy prices are due to bite, will prove critical. Russia will put every ounce of its political manipulation effort into splitting Germany, France and Italy from the front line states. It is an essential British interest that these efforts fail. 

Lasting peace in Europe will only come once Russia, like Germany has, abandons imperialist ambitions, reforms its militaristic culture, and retreats from all territory in other states that it has occupied. Putin’s defeat won’t be enough on its own to trigger the introspection and reconstruction that Russia needs. But it is a necessary step, and his inability to enforce Moscow’s ban on Finnish and Swedish NATO membership is evidence that he is starting to lose. 

Stephen Booth: Does Germany’s pledge to rearm signal fundamental change – or is it a temporary reflex?

10 Mar

Stephen Booth is Head of the Britain in the World Project at Policy Exchange.

The horror of Russia’s unprovoked and brutal full-scale invasion of Ukraine has been shocking in so many ways. Much about what happens next is uncertain, but the crisis is clearly a pivotal moment, which the West and its allies will be grappling with for many years to come. Vladimir Putin’s appalling actions have upended long-held assumptions about the geopolitics of Europe and are leading to radical and fundamental changes in policy, most starkly in Germany.

Germany has long been the EU’s economic powerhouse but, due in large part to its history, has eschewed a leadership role in European foreign and security policy, which have traditionally been roles for France and Britain. However, faced with the new reality, the new coalition government, headed by the centre-left SDP and supported by the Greens and the liberal FDP, is now embarking on a new course.

For weeks prior to the invasion, Berlin had maintained a longstanding policy of not delivering weapons to active conflict zones. Meanwhile, Olaf Scholz, the new Chancellor, had refused to say publicly if the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline would be scrapped if Russia moved into Ukraine. This position was increasingly unsustainable, and the pipeline was eventually suspended in response to Putin moving his forces into Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

A week later, Scholz’s speech to a special session of the Bundestag was the most striking illustration of how the crisis is altering the strategic outlook. Annalena Baerbock, the Green Foreign Minister, described it as a “180-degree turn” in the country’s foreign policy.

Scholz announced that Germany will now “year after year” meet the NATO target of investing more than two per cent of GDP in defence (up from around 1.5 per cent now) and will create a one-off €100 billion fund to modernise its under-resourced military. He committed Germany to NATO’s nuclear sharing, pledging to upgrade its outdated Tornado jets, and reversed the government’s opposition to providing weapons to Ukraine.

On energy, Scholz pledged to reduce dependence on Russian oil and gas, proposing new infrastructure to secure supply from other sources and providing economic support for consumers affected by the transition. There is however no plan to reverse the phase out of nuclear energy announced by Angela Merkel in 2011, which has prolonged German reliance on coal and Russian gas.

Nevertheless, the various policy announcements have overturned decades of German foreign policy and some fundamental tenets of the main political parties.

The SPD has been the party of “Ostpolitik” and has long seen engagement and interdependence with Russia as a key plank of German policy. The first gas pipeline between Germany and the then Soviet Union opened in 1973, under the then SPD Chancellor, Willy Brandt. Scholz also called on another former SPD Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, to resign from his posts at Russian firms, dismissing the argument that he is now a private citizen, noting that a chancellor’s public service doesn’t end when he leaves office.

The Greens have accepted the pledge to increase capacity for coal and gas reserves and build new liquid natural gas terminals to accelerate the move away from Russian gas. The party’s former leader, Robert Habeck, first raised the prospect of providing Ukraine with defensive weapons in May 2021, but this was controversial with the rest of his party and the increase to defence spending is a major departure from the party’s pacifist roots. The fiscally conservative FDP have accepted the need to take on new debt to modernise the military.

Equally, Friedrich Merz, leader of the largest opposition party, the centre-right Christian Democrats, and Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) came out with strong support for rearmament. This is significant, since investment foundered during the 16 years of CDU-led government under Angela Merkel. The breadth of cross-party support demonstrates the level of consensus behind this new direction.

These developments have been welcomed by Germany’s international partners, including the UK, who have long called on Berlin to shoulder a greater share of the security burden and re-evaluate its stance on Russia. Speaking to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee this week, Liz Truss said, “I want to praise Germany for their change in stand, because that will have a huge impact. I want to see others follow their lead.”

Delivering the new suite of German policies is certainly more easily said than done. For example, Scholz has so far resisted any EU embargo on Russian oil, judging this too risky a step, which only underlines the country’s dependence on Russian energy. The US and the UK, which announced embargos this week, are less reliant. The EU has instead announced a plan to cut Russian gas imports by two-thirds within a year.

Germany has been repeatedly criticised for free riding on others’ NATO commitments. The question is whether we are witnessing a temporary reflex to the current situation, or whether the political environment has fundamentally changed for the long-term. Just as Germany’s energy dependence on Russia cannot be reversed overnight, decades of drift into quasi-pacifism reflect a deeply embedded outlook. Will this moment mark a shift towards a new forward-leaning posture regarding security and the use of hard power as a deterrent?

But assuming it is a long-term commitment, the planned boost to German spending will make it the biggest defence spender in Europe. However reluctant it is to actively engage in geopolitics, this fact alone will matter by virtue of Germany’s size, history, and geographic position at the heart of the EU. A more assertive Berlin could potentially alter EU and wider European affairs significantly in the years to come.

Emmanuel Macron, who looks likely to be re-elected this spring, has been positioning France to take on the geopolitical leadership of Europe post-Brexit and post-Merkel. However, Scholz may yet become a more influential and decisive Chancellor than Merkel. Recent events will certainly have boosted the relationship between Berlin and Washington.

Macron’s bid for European leadership has centred on a push for EU “strategic autonomy”, but Germany, Eastern Europe, and the UK have been keener to emphasise NATO’s role in European security, which could suggest a stronger role for Atlanticism.

On the other hand, Germany is likely to be reluctant to lead from the front, and German governments have consistently sought to embed foreign policy in an integrated EU framework. The current coalition agreement proposes qualified majority voting for foreign and security policy, with a mechanism to reassure the smaller member states. If this moment marks the birth of a more geopolitical EU, its character and configuration remain up for grabs.

Meanwhile, the UK’s early role in providing military aid to Ukraine and its support for eastern NATO states has been welcomed by several EU members. Broadly, both UK and EU politicians have sought to emphasise how the crisis has demonstrated the need for and value of cooperation on fundamental issues of security and upholding democracy. Truss, along with her counterparts from the US, Canada, and Ukraine, attended the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council last week.

When pressed at the Foreign Affairs Committee, Truss refused to engage in speculation about whether new UK-EU structures in this area might be explored. However, she said, “We do need to re-look at European security architecture. It needs to be tougher, it needs to be stronger, there needs to be much stronger support on the Eastern flank.” The key part of the conversation is between the EU and NATO, she added.

For now the most pressing issue is the appalling unfolding humanitarian disaster in Ukraine, which is only likely to get worse as the violence grinds on. Meanwhile, the war’s wider economic impact will soon be felt by households across Europe in the form of higher energy prices and living costs, which will compound already high levels of inflation. Neighbouring countries will need assistance in coping with the humanitarian fall-out as increasing numbers of refugees flee the country.

However, the crisis is also likely to have profound implications for our European neighbourhood, which require careful consideration.

Rachael Finch: Net Zero and energy security. If we go too fast for the first, we won’t get the second. Indeed, we may get neither.

4 Mar

Rachael Finch is a former British Army Officer and works in the defence sector. She is currently a Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Women’s Organisation West Midlands.

When Russia is negotiating with Western countries over the crisis in Ukraine, it is doing so knowing it is in control of 41 per cent of the EU’s gas supply. Having also built up its foreign currency reserves to defend itself from Western sanctions, and with no Western political appetite to commit troops to the crisis, Moscow is in a strong position.

In the long-term, Henry Smith, writing for this website, is likely right: Net Zero, by reducing dependence on natural gas, will weaken Russia’s position.

However, in the short-to-medium-term, the transition to Net Zero will transform geopolitics before a world powered by green energy can take shape. When we consider that almost 60 per cent of Russia’s exports comprise petroleum or coal products, it’s hardly surprising that Vladimir Putin is not the world’s most vocal environmental campaigner.

Consequently, the UK Government needs to look beyond the long-term environmental challenges of global warming, and address the nearer-term geopolitical risks that are present. Geopolitical risks create uncertainty in energy markets as reliability is questioned, pushing up prices for consumers and creating resistance to Net Zero goals.

The move away from oil and gas as sources of power will not happen overnight, and during this period, petrostates will continue to profit from their exports of fossil fuels. However, the combination of pressure on investors to divest from carbon-based fuels and the uncertainty about the future of fossil fuels may result in declining investment in oil and gas.

If oil supplies fall faster than oil demand as a consequence, fuel shortages and higher and more volatile oil prices will be here to stay for a while. Notably, the current increase in UK gas prices is due to a drop in gas supply at the same time as an increase in demand.

Higher oil prices result in higher revenues for petrostates such as Russia, or Saudi Arabia. In addition, as the transition to so-called clean energy develops, the overall reduction in the demand for oil combined with the need to keep costs as low as possible may result in higher-cost producers, such as Canada, being priced out of the market. This leaves room for states that produce cheaper oil, such as Saudi Arabia, to fill the gap increasing their geopolitical clout.

The same logic applies to gas markets. And for Europe, this means an increasing dependence on Russian gas: Russia’s importance to Europe will increase in the short-to-medium term if the Nord Stream 2 pipeline eventually comes online. If Putin wants to push back against the expansion of NATO in Eastern Europe, now is a good time for him to do it.

However, it’s not only fossil fuel exports that could increase Moscow’s geopolitical clout. According to the International Energy Authority, global nuclear energy generation will need to double between now and 2050 if the world is to achieve net zero emissions by the same date.

Many of the nuclear reactors planned or under construction outside Russia are being built by Russian companies. China is also a relatively large investor in nuclear power, meaning that both Moscow and Beijing will increasingly be able to influence industry norms and impose global standards in their favour.

China also controls many inputs required for clean energy technology, dominating both mining and the processing and refining of critical minerals, such as copper, cobalt, lithium, nickel and rare earth metals. An increase in the demand for clean technology will further increase China’s geopolitical influence. China has previously shown its ability to (mis)use this influence when it blocked the export of critical minerals to Japan in 2010 over the disagreement about the East China Sea. It could do so again.

It may seem as though localising supply chains is a way to fix these tensions. Despite the Green Party’s utopic advocacy for reducing emissions in the UK’s imports to zero, the reality is a net-zero global economy will need large supply chains for components, products and global trade in low-carbon fuels and minerals.

Global competition is needed to encourage innovation and to develop new markets, reducing prices for consumers. But, increasing electrification, be it for vehicles or heating, will likely result in more local production due to the difficulties with transporting electricity over long distances. Although local supply chains can be beneficial for security and employment reasons, too much localisation reduces diversification, creates vulnerabilities and raises prices for UK consumers.

Moreover, China’s recent increased use of ‘home-grown’ coal as an energy source is driven in part by the shortage of gas on global markets and the need for more energy security. Germany has also found itself in a similar position after its ban on nuclear power. Localising power supply chains doesn’t necessarily result in a reduction of carbon emissions.

Decarbonisation also poses problems for developing countries. The COP26 highlighted this with lower-income countries calling for developed nations to pay for historical damage allegedly caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

Whether you agree with this statement or not, developed and developing nations have diverging future goals which will increase tensions. The latter need growth to raise their populations out of poverty in the most economically efficient way. The former, by trying to stop the use of fossil fuels to deal with global warming, are preventing this happening. When the reality of life is a diesel-generator backed power grid that keeps blacking out, an electric car is not a sought after item.

For many developing countries, the way out of poverty may involve extracting hydrocarbon resources. However, developed nations are putting pressure on financial institutions not to support extractive projects, but by not assisting with an alternative, the tensions will grow.

China, on the other hand, is providing finance to countries like Cote d’Ivoire, helping to develop their extractive industries and by doing so is feeding internal Chinese demand for raw materials. As far as many developing countries are concerned, rolling back globalisation could do far more damage in relieving poverty and living standards than continued global warming.

The transition to a world powered by clean energy is radical and it will be messy. If, on the way to achieving Net Zero, national energy security conflicts with responses to global warming, there is a real risk of friction on the road to a green planet.

International climate leadership needs to mitigate the national security implications of a transition to green energy, in addition to making promises and signing agreements. Nuclear power and continuing investment in oil and gas reserves are essential tools in dealing with energy market volatility and the inevitable periods of disconnect between supply and demand of fuels; it’s good to see the government beginning to recognise this.

Supply chains need to be diversified to reduce reliance on one main provider – competitive markets are essential in this regard, as well as keeping prices lower for the UK consumer. And there will be a need to support communities dependent on fossil fuels, both domestically and internationally.

New green technologies will solve technical problems, but they will also encourage states to maximise their own interests and policymakers would be naive not to recognise this. However, perhaps the greatest risk of Net Zero is that if the conflict between global warming and national security is ignored, that the transition to a greener planet won’t take place at all.

Ben Roback: O Canada! Truckers’ protest shows the True North is not so strong and free

23 Feb

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

Justin Trudeau announced new COVID-19 measures in November last year, the kind that civil liberties campaigners have become used to objecting to on a routine basis. Going further, in January he imposed a vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers that resulted in a 14-day quarantine for those who did not comply.

A tipping point for many beyond just the truckers directly affected, the Canadian capital of Ottawa then became the scene of mass protests and aggressive police intervention, prompting some of the most draconian legislative responses the democratic world has seen throughout the length of the pandemic.

Was this an inevitable outcome for an entire sector of skilled professionals who faced financial ruin if they did not comply with the vaccine mandate? Or the latest attempt by a government to pursue protection from coronavirus and cross-border transmission?

Announcing the measures, Trudeau cannot have expected to turn Canada into the unlikely global epicentre of protests against Covid measures. This is, after all, a country best known for politeness and jokingly mocked for being so quick to apologise.

Then truckers clashed with local police, prompting hundreds of arrests. The Prime Minister relocated to a secret safe location. The Government invoked emergency powers and used them to seize trucks, free personal and corporate bank accounts of those protesting, and declare specific areas as “no-go zones”. The heavy-handed response by the police led to the resignation of the capital’s police chief.

The convoy of trucks and truckers that arrived in January was accompanied by the kind of flags and slogans that we are used to seeing on the streets of Washington, DC. “Don’t tread on me” was waved next to “Choose freedom to choose”. The self-styled ‘Freedom Convoy’ inspired duplicates in France, New Zealand and the Netherlands.

Candace Owens, a famed anti-vaxxer and right-wing provocateur in the United States, even called for a US invasion of Canada in support of the convoy. (Joe Biden and Anthony Blinken, the Secretary of State, might have been preoccupied by a looming invasion of Ukraine at the time.)

The end of the protests, but an extension of the ’emergency measures’?

By and large, the protests led by truckers have come to an end, but the Government has cited trucks gathered on the outskirts of Ottawa as justification to extend its so-called emergency powers. The Canadian Parliament voted this week to extend The Emergencies Act, which provides the police the emergency powers deemed necessary to clear further protests should they arise.

The Government argues that it cannot abide further threats to trade and Canada’s strategically important sites like the Ambassador Bridge, the crossing that straddles Ontario and Detroit and which handles more than a quarter of US-Canada trade. It will argue that no one campaigns for fewer protections around the Suez Canal through which 12 per cent of global trade flows.

Hampered by leading a minority government, Trudeau was reliant on the New Democratic Party for support. Having to look outside of your own party to pass legislation is rarely a good look. The vote now moves up to the Senate, where defeat in the upper chamber would mean powers in the emergency act would be immediately revoked.

In parliaments around the world, governments continue to struggle to balance health fears with the concerns of elected representatives who urge freedom and personal responsibility. At home, we have seen a sudden shift towards the latter as the Cabinet signed off a plan to end all Covid restrictions and urge a return to normality.

On the one hand, it is reassuring to know we are not alone in this quagmire. On the other, as conservatives it is wrenching to see multiple administrations fail to listen to those making the nuanced case for greater freedom.

The Canadian protests started as a rally against mandatory vaccinations and have quickly spread into much more than a single-issue campaign. The movement has extended to anti-establishment causes gaining traction in cities around the world and, of course, on encrypted social media platforms. Trudeau called the protestors a “fringe minority”, reminiscent of a more polite version of Hillary Clinton referring to Donald Trump supporters as “a basket of deplorables”.

As the pandemic slowly turns to endemic around the world, where will these supposed “fringe minorities” go? Laurence Fox’s repeated failed political escapades prove that electoral systems rarely reward these kind of campaign groups. But a decades-long movement that culminated in Brexit proves that campaigning can be effective outside the regularity of election cycles.

Campaigners will continue to protest. Convoys may drive through Ottawa again. It is paramount that governments facilitate their ability to do so within reason, rather than rushing to inhibit freedom of expression and association. There can be no greater sign of a functioning democracy than the ability to openly criticise one’s own government.

They are unlikely to lose their voice, but it is possible that those who shout loudest will cease to make the most noise. Truckers took to the streets of Ottawa in protest at the vaccine mandate. For all the disruption and subsequent political attention caused, it is worth noting that the Canadian Trucking Alliance report that 85 per cent of truckers are vaccinated after all.

Canada. A lesson in what happens when leaders go too far with Covid powers.

15 Feb

Over the last month, it’s fair to say things haven’t been going that well in Canada. Justin Trudeau, its Prime Minister, has been locked in a battle with huge numbers of lorry drivers, who have rejected the government’s requirement that they be vaccinated by January 15 – or else have to quarantine for 14 days after trips.

The truckers, many of whom have referred to themselves as the “Freedom Convoy”, have protested across different parts of Canada, including the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Michigan and Ontario, and the areas around parliament, causing enormous disruption, with some local businesses being forced to close.

The protests have been divisive to say the least. Watching media footage, it’s impossible to get a sense of who everyone involved is. Clearly a sizeable portion are hard working people, who simply reject the philosophical principle of vaccine mandates and want to make their feelings known.

But there have also been problematic elements, with reports of far-right groups infiltrating the protest. Police also recently detained 11 people involved, who had weapons including guns, ammunition and body armour. So the Canadian authorities understandably have concerns about where this will lead.

Trudeau’s management of the situation, however, has not helped things in the least. For one, he tends to lump protesters together and has implied everyone involved is a bigot in tweets. He has given no indication to listening to any worries people have about mandates, and his ability to diffuse the growing tensions appears non-existent.

Far from it, Trudeau has gone where no Canadian Prime Minister has gone before, and yesterday invoked the country’s Emergencies Act in order to show Canadians who’s boss. First passed in 1988, it means the authorities can take radical action to stop the protests, such as freezing bank accounts and vehicle insurance for anyone linked to them, without a court order. The police will also have more tools to tackle those involved.

Although Trudeau reassured the public that the measures would be “time-limited” and “reasonable and proportionate”, and that the military would not be called for, you wouldn’t bet on the latter, given how chaotic his strategy has been to date.

It’s not only the reaction of the protesters that could be an issue for the prime minister. Trudeau may have difficulty trying to enact the Emergencies Act, as  it can only be used for specific issues, such as counter espionage or sabotage and foreign-influenced activities, among other things. Will disgruntled truckers really fit into this category? Trudeau will have to consult the premiers of those in impact provinces before putting it to parliament, and if they do not see its point here, the act has to be revoked. What will this do to his premiership?

That the Canadian government is threatening its citizens with financial punishment will shock many, given that it is often regarded as one of the world’s most progressive places to live. But it’s interesting that another democracy, previously considered as a liberal haven, is having similar difficulties. That is, New Zealand, where politicians are trying to contain protesters who also object to vaccine mandates.

Recently authorities tried to disperse protesters outside the country’s parliament by playing “annoying” music, such as songs written by James Blunt and the children’s anthem “Baby Shark”. Although you could say this was quite a “funny” way of getting back of them, there’s something sinister about a government, literally, infantilising its people.

What can you make of Canada and New Zealand? Surely the biggest conclusion is that governments can go too far in pushing for Covid legislation. Through the pandemic, it’s been countries like Sweden – and the UK at the beginning of the crisis – have been criticised for being lax over restrictions. Yet we have seen in the likes of Australia, where large protests erupted as people got sick of strict measures, that governments can be too extreme in the opposite direction – pushing people to breaking point. 

Trudeau’s best tactic at this point is surely to retract all mandate threats, but he is clearly too far down the rabbit hole to see sense. Events are, at the very least, a reminder that, for all the accusations that the UK should have had stronger measures, there’s sometimes a worrying price to pay.

Omicron or no Omicron, high-income nations should have promoted a more equitable distribution of vaccines

29 Nov

After a fairly “relaxed” few months in the Coronavirus wars, many of us were dispirited last week to learn of the emergence of a highly transmissible new variant, Omicron, which was first identified by scientists in South Africa

In a joint press conference on Friday with Patrick Vallance, England’s Chief Scientific Adviser, and Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer, Boris Johnson levelled with the nation about its seriousness – and what measures the UK would take to combat it, from the re-introduction of compulsory mask wearing and a new PCR test requirement for people arriving at airports. Jonathan Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, has today expanded on the threat it poses.

Whether the Government’s steps are enough will be the subject of many questions over the next few weeks. But perhaps the most important is what Omicron symbolises for the international community; specifically around whether the distribution of vaccines has been as equitable as it could have been.

From the early stages of the crisis, prominent experts and the World Health Organization have warned of the importance of equitable vaccine distribution, first for moral reasons, but also because an imbalance could leave a vacuum for new variants to develop, and evade vaccines/ treatment. The emergence of Omicron has only added to that concern – due to the fact that it emerged in a part of the world with low inoculation rates (only 24 per cent of the population in South Africa has been inoculated).

That the variant was discovered in South Africa does not mean it is where it originated (rather, its scientists have some of the best detection tools); indeed, there are cases in Hong Kong, Canada and the UK. But it has nonetheless opened up the debate on whether more even vaccination rates around the globe could have made a difference, and how many new variants will take off elsewhere without better-protected communities. 

There are still shocking statistics on inoculation rates worldwide; only 2.5 per cent of the population in low income countries, for example, have received full protection, with 3.5 billion people across the globe waiting for their first dose of the vaccine. At the same time, 66 per cent of high-income countries have been vaccinated, with many onto their booster jabs and plans to inoculate children.

Could high-income countries do more? It’s worth saying that many have gone to extraordinary efforts to get vaccines out. In July this year, for instance, the UK began donating millions of vaccinations as part of the international Covax scheme, and has pledged to donate 100 million overseas by June 2022. 

As of September, the United States had donated approximately 140 million doses to around 83 countries, making it the highest donor, followed by China, Japan, India, the UK, France, Canada, Spain, Sweden and Poland

But even these staggering figures – Covax’s initial goal is to provide two billion doses of vaccines worldwide in 2021 and 1.8 billion doses to 92 poorer countries by early 2022 – may need to be improved upon. There will also be pressure on countries to be more flexible about vaccine patents; the European Union is being asked to share more information with others.

Furthermore, some countries may need help overcoming logistical challenges to rolling out their vaccines, from having difficulties with storage, to experiencing shortages in health workers who can administer inoculations. It is not a simple case of more jabs, job done; governments have to consider these additional barriers.

Either way, it’s clear that equitable distribution will become much more of a talking point with the new variant; it is a reminder that the world is in it “together” when it comes to beating the virus. This often seems to be forgotten in all the talk about booster jabs – and it’s a shame that it only gets brought up when growing variants hit home. Even before Omicron, developed nations had a duty to do more here.

Tom Clougherty: Tax rises will trash the UK’s international competitiveness. But there is a better way.

22 Oct

Tom Clougherty is head of tax and editorial director at the Centre for Policy Studies.

Unless the Government changes course, Britain’s international tax competitiveness is going to plummet in 2023, with coming tax increases set to leave us with one of the least growth-friendly tax systems of any rich nation.

That’s the key finding of a new analysis by the Centre for Policy Studies and Tax Foundation think tanks, based on the latter’s 2021 International Tax Competitiveness Index, which was released earlier this week.

The UK comes 22nd on the latest edition of the Index, just behind Canada (20th) and the United States (21st). We have the best cross-border tax rules of any OECD nation, but do not fare so well domestically: finishing 18th for corporation taxes, 22nd for VAT, 23rd for individual taxes, and 33rd for property taxes.

For now, that ranking is actually slightly unfair to the UK: because of a data lag, this year’s Index does not reflect the impact of the temporary super-deduction for capital investment, which Rishi Sunak announced at his March budget.

The super-deduction addresses a long-standing weakness of the UK tax system – our unusually stingy treatment of business investment – and therefore represents a bold, pro-growth move. If we factor it into the International Tax Competitiveness Index, the UK’s corporate tax rank improves from 18th to 11th and its overall rank from 22nd to 21st.

The problem, of course, is that the super-deduction is only temporary. So while it might encourage firms to bring forward existing investment plans, it is not likely to sustainably boost investment in the longer-run – which ought to be the goal of a truly effective tax reform.

And, sadly, the positive impact of the super-deduction on Britain’s tax competitiveness looks set to be equally short-lived. With higher marginal tax rates due to hit personal incomes in April 2022, and corporate incomes in 2023, the country is approaching a competitiveness cliff-edge. The outlook is not at all promising.

First, the attractiveness of our individual tax system will decline as the ‘health and social care levy’ is introduced. This will increase the top tax rate on earnings to 48.25 per cent, compared with a current OECD average of 42.7 per cent. For dividends, the top rate will rise to 39.25 per cent – the fourth-highest in the OECD, and well above the 24.1 per cent average rate. The UK would fall from 23rd to 31st on the International Tax Competitiveness Index’s ranking of personal tax regimes.

Worse is to come a year later, when the expiry of the super-deduction will be accompanied by a big increase in the headline corporation tax rate, from 19 to 25 per cent. The combined effect of this change will be to send the UK plunging down the tax competitiveness rankings: its corporate tax rank will fall from 11th to 31st out of 37 OECD countries, and it will slide to 30th place in the International Tax Competitiveness Index overall.

This prospect represents a step-change in the UK’s attractiveness to internationally-mobile business and investment. Coming in the wake of Brexit and a deep, pandemic-induced recession, when generating robust economic growth should be at the forefront of every policymaker’s mind, this development ought to be of grave concern to anyone who cares about the prospects of the British economy.

As for the Government, it will struggle to deliver any part of its agenda, whether it’s rising real wages, better public services, or sound public finances – not to mention longer-term goals like levelling up or the transition to Net Zero – if the private-sector economy does not grow strongly in the years ahead. Trashing the country’s tax competitiveness will make that ambition much harder to achieve than it needs to be.

What, then, should we do instead? Nice as it would be, given that tax revenues are forecast to reach their highest sustained level since the aftermath of the second world war, boosting the UK’s tax competitiveness doesn’t necessarily mean cutting the overall tax burden. Famously high-tax Sweden finishes 8th on the International Tax Competitiveness Index – well above the UK – while perennial chart-topper Estonia actually manages to raise an almost identical share of GDP from its tax system as we do.

Rather, the emphasis needs to be on reform – identifying the bits of our tax system that weigh heavily on growth and doing what we can to change them. On corporation tax, that means making the current approach to capital investment permanent, while maintaining a competitive headline tax rate. For individuals, we should rethink the highest ‘additional rate’ of tax, which raises little (if any) money anyway. Property taxes, meanwhile, need a total overhaul – beginning with economically disastrous business rates and stamp duties.

Developing an internationally competitive tax system is one of the key ways the Government can help the UK to attract more business and investment, spur domestic enterprise and entrepreneurship, and generally encourage a dynamic and growing economy. A powerful pro-growth tax agenda is well-within our grasp. We just need the Government to change course before it’s too late. Next week’s budget is the perfect time to start.

Daniel Hannan: Forget Rayner and ‘scum’. It was Reeves’ interview this week that revealed why Labour is unelectable.

29 Sep

Lord Hannan of Kingsclere is a Conservative peer, writer and columnist. He was a Conservative MEP from 1999 to 2020, and is now President of the Initiative for Free Trade.

The moderates’ response was more telling than Angela Rayner’s original outburst. Calling Conservatives “scum” is hardly a new departure for Labour, as anyone who has been at either party conference will attest.

Indeed, an anthropologist coming new to the peculiar dialect of the British Left might assume that “Toriskum” was their standard word for people outside their tribe.

Rayner had simply rattled off one of those compound phrases that Lefties use: homophobic, racist, misogynist, absolute pile of banana republic Etonian piece of scum.”

OK, Etonian was a colourful addition (and a questionable one if the speaker’s intention was to suggest that you shouldn’t categorise or “other” whole groups of people) but, apart from that, it was a standard collocation: a stringing together of words that are so often placed next to one another that the speaker isn’t really thinking about their individual meanings.

In Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell calls it duckspeak, a term of approbation in Party circles, meaning “to make articulate speech issue from the larynx without involving the higher brain centres at all.”

Much more interesting was the way in which supposedly grown-up, centrist Labour front-benchers reacted when asked about their deputy leader’s tirade. Well, they said, Angela might have used slightly OTT language, but her essential point was sound: this was indeed a hateful administration.

Typical was the interview given by Rachel Reeves, the Shadow Chancellor, on Monday’s Today Programme. Nick Robinson asked her whether that list of adjectives was entirely fair when the Tories had had two female prime ministers, when two of the four great offices of state were held by women and two by British Asians, and when the education and health secretaries were also Asian, the business secretary black and so on. Here is how she answered:

“Look at what happened during the pandemic, where if you’re from a black, Asian or minority ethnic background, you’re more likely to get the virus, more likely to die from the virus. The virus exposed some of those divisions and inequalities in society. I do understand why a lot of people feel very angry with this government. I feel angry with them as well.”

Robinson let it pass and, as far as I can tell, no one else has picked it up. But that response struck me as far more revealing than Rayner’s rant. Here was Labour’s Shadow Chancellor – in a BBC interview, not in some high-spirited speech to activists – accusing the Conservatives of causing needless deaths on grounds of race.

Whether they were doing so through neglect or out of some hidden Nazi impulse was left unsaid. But the differential in death rates was, in Reeves’ view, plainly ministers’ fault. Her suggestion that it was proper to “feel very angry with this governmentwas a straight imputation of blame.

It is true that, especially in the first wave, ethnic minorities were more vulnerable. No one knows exactly why. Epidemiologists have proposed different theories. Some link the higher fatality rate to being in more exposed occupations; others to multi-generational households; others to genetics; others to a greater incidence of pre-existing conditions; others to being a more urban population; others to vitamin D deficiency, which is more common in dark-skinned people at relatively sunless latitudes. More recently, differential rates in vaccine take-up have been identified as a factor, though that obviously didn’t apply during the first wave.

Maybe one or more of these explanations are correct; maybe it’s something else entirely. I have no idea. Neither have you. Neither has Reeves. But she thought nothing of blaming the deaths on Tory racism – an astonishingly serious charge to level if you’re not in a position to back it up.

My purpose is not to have a go at the Shadow Chancellor. In most interviews, she has struck me as pleasant, polite and personable. That’s the point. So natural is it in Labour circles to assume that people to your Right are murderous bigots that even the sensibles do it; and, when they do, no one bats an eyelid.

To see how odd it is to level such accusations, consider the related question of whether Covid is more dangerous to men or to women. Here, the differential is far greater than among ethnic groups. Although the sexes are equally likely to catch the virus, men are nearly three times more likely to need intensive treatment, and are significantly more likely to die.

Again, there are competing theories as to why, though here there is a clear front-runner, namely differences in immune response systems which make women less vulnerable to some viruses.

No one, to my knowledge, has tried to argue that the higher death-rate among people who carry a Y-chromosome is the result of sexism, and rightly so – it would be an absurd proposition.

But suppose, for the sake of argument, that the differential had been the other way around, and that women had been likelier to lose their lives. Would Labour MPs have followed the science and concluded that biological differences were beyond the power of the state, or would they have blamed Tory misogyny? I think we all know the answer.

Here, in a nutshell, is why Labour is struggling to make progress. It keeps stirring up a culture war that, in present circumstances, it can’t win. Its obsession with identity politics – organisers of Labour meetings in Brighton were declining to take questions from white men on grounds that they needed to talk less and listen more – puts it hopelessly at odds with the majority of British people.

It is possible, I suppose, that the majority will eventually shift, as woke youngsters grow up, carrying their values with them. Britain might end up like Canada (or at least English-speaking Canada) where there is genuine electoral demand for a measure of identity politics.

But that shift, if it happens, is many years away. In the meantime, the ugly combination of wokery and self-righteousness is as repulsive to the electorate as Corbynism was.

What an extraordinary state of affairs when our second party votes, by 70 per cent to 30, to condemn the defence pact with Australia and the United States as “a dangerous move that will undermine world peace”.

How shameful when the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, the man aspiring to lead the next government, supports that motion. What a bizarre situation when he cannot bring himself to say that someone with a cervix is a woman.

I feel almost sorry for Keir Starmer, caught as he is between the electorate and his aggressively pacifist, bitterly internationalist, viciously tolerant activists. Still, what a needless and self-inflicted row. Never mind the cervix, Sir Keir. Consider, more immediately, the arse, the elbow and the difference between them.

Jon Moynihan and Christopher Howarth: In an age of global insecurity, Truss’s appointment could mark a watershed in foreign policy

23 Sep

Jon Moynihan was the CEO and Chairman of PA Consulting Group, as well as a member of the board of Vote Leave. Christopher Howarth is a former accountant, lawyer and TA soldier.

The promotion of Liz Truss to Foreign Secretary has the potential to mark a watershed in British foreign policy. Creative, iconoclastic, and bullet resistant, Truss has, as Trade Secretary, made multiple trade breakthroughs by combining pragmatism and optimism.

Recognising as she does the great geopolitical changes around the world during just this past decade, she has the opportunity to make her mark on our history by formulating, with the Prime Minister, a new foreign policy approach for the UK, one that cashes the Brexit Dividend while recognising the dramatic changes in the world that have occurred over the past decade.

There has never been a golden age of global peace and prosperity, but the world has definitely worsened recently. The EU, not yet reconciled to UK departure and torn between an anxiety to contain Russia and a desire for Russia’s energy, is an always unreliable partner, with the France/AUKUS row showing that the EU and its member countries often act in opposite directions.

The botched withdrawal from Afghanistan threatens to recreate a safe haven for arms and terrorism exports. Biden’s fumbles and abandonment of Trump’s Middle East gains give Iran a renewed chance to further its nuclear and regional ambitions within the Shiite Arc and beyond, destabilising states from Yemen to Iraq and threatening Israel.

In Africa, South Africa’s continued implosion has accelerated. Further north, the arena around east Congo contains Hieronymus Bosch-like scenes of civil and interregional war, rape, slavery, and economic exploitation. Across Africa, an old tradition, the military coup, has re-emerged; both military and civil autocrats bolster themselves with Russian mercenaries.

The Indian subcontinent is now a more dangerous place because of Afghanistan’s implosion. Myanmar has taken a huge step backward. Thailand is repressive. South and Central America are the least concerning areas, but only by comparison; democratisations that followed the Falkland Islands war in the 1980s have steadily drifted leftwards, with Venezuela a stark yet apparently unheeded warning.

This brings us, finally, to the two greatest problems: Russia and China. Russia, even in its position of weakness, creates instability, threatens invasion, in its near abroad – Ukraine and Baltics in particular. In further-away countries, the Wagner Group spearheads a new colonialism.

The group of thugs and oligarchs around Putin maintain a steely extractive grip on their own country. Russia has a formidable cyber hacking arm which makes money (through ransomware) and disrupts the West.

Russia opportunistically allies itself with the far stronger China, whose intelligent and to date successful long-term policy, starting with the Belt-and-Road initiative, is quite clearly that of world domination.

In its near abroad, China extends its reach bit by bit, building roads into Pakistan and Afghanistan and railways toward Europe; building illegal villages in Bhutan and pushing Indian soldiers off Himalayan precipices. It refuses to bring North Korea to heel even as that country becomes an ever-greater nuclear and cyber menace (even as large numbers of North Koreans starve to death).

Despite the West’s long-held concern, that led to Obama’s “pivot to Asia”, China continues with its long-term maritime strategy, building piece-by-piece what is eventually likely to become the most formidable Navy in the world.

It builds ports in Sri Lanka, Djibouti, Gwadar and on; it fortifies islands and atolls across the vast expanses of China’s 9-dash-line claim; it threatens Taiwan. In the meantime, China extracts every last ounce of the West’s technological capability via legal and illegal routes; buying, spying, hacking, sending its students in waves to the west so as to learn and return.

The spectacle of China building a F-35 clone 10 years before expected was a wakeup. It highlighted that the role of science – in weapons development, cyber defence and offence, intelligence, and industry – is key, yet in the UK, as in most of the West, we are falling behind and are increasingly unable to protect even what IP we have.

These are some of the strategic challenges facing the UK. What should the UK response be?

In short, our new foreign policy doctrine should first, realise the Brexit dividend, and second, respond to the new bifurcated hegemonic structure: The US (no longer the global hegemon) with its allies, versus China and Russia with their satrapies.

The Brexit Dividend: The UK has not been a super-power for 100 years, but it is a significant power, one with a unique ability to be at the centre of alliances addressing current and future threats. Now we’re a fully sovereign power, we can forge our own policy based on our own interests, with full control of defence, trade and development.

The EU, built around a single market and customs union, always lacked a coherent foreign policy. The UK as a member was saddled with a trade policy serving the interests of others, not us, and a foreign policy unaligned even with the EU’s own trade agreements – the German or Cypriot veto, for example, preventing any serious criticism of Russia or China.

The Bifurcated Hegemony: things are going to get tougher. We will have to tighten our uses of trade and subordinate it and Aid to new geopolitical imperatives; anticorruption and cementing new treaties will have to take precedence over softer fashionable favourites.

Our new ability to focus on our own (and global) security came good in the recent AUKUS negotiations. The UK played to its strengths; a trading partner, trusted and with unique technology (more Brexit dividend: as an EU member the UK could not have discussed trade policy; would have had to support French interests; and would have been pressured to be more accommodating to China).

Promoting specific UK interests becomes central; no more need to outsource our development money (and trade deficit) to Brussels. A sovereign UK can use its aid and trade policy as twin tools to improve stability and growth in Africa, helping countries trade their way out of poverty –win-win for the UK in prosperity and influence.

In the Middle East we can work better with historic partners on security and trade. Joining CPTPP (the pacific trade partnership), and the hinted deemphasis of Canada and NZ from the 5eyes network, points to a more complex future, awash with interlocking networks and relationships of different strength.

We can also now push our objectives in global councils – protecting intellectual property, combating cyber espionage and theft, resisting authoritarian states seeking to subvert international organisations and our values. The UK now has the opportunity to work flexibly with different models to meet differing and emerging threats and opportunities. It’s an exciting new chapter in UK foreign policy.

Such an approach has the makings of a distinctly Conservative foreign policy; pragmatic but optimistic, believing in Britain, British values and a global role; with loyalty to old allies and friends and an instinctive belief that global engagement is good for both us and the world.

As Margaret Thatcher always clearly said: a decrease in British (and American) global influence would be very bad for the world. Fortunately, Truss, being a Thatcherite, recognises the opportunities the UK has. She brings to the Foreign Office unique insights into how to further UK interests and global stability. A new Johnson/Truss doctrine can put them into action.