Miliband: We can win the election

Foreign Secretary David Miliband urges Labour to defend its record, be candid about its strengths an

At the next election, foreign policy can be a winner for Labour. But only if we demonstrate why it is integral to Britain’s security and opportunity, set out a clear vision of British foreign policy that draws on our values, and show why progressive ends cannot be delivered by conservative means.

Foreign policy used to be considered enemy territory for the left. It was the realm where national interest had to take precedence over progressive values.

I think that version of foreign policy is out-dated. The promotion of our values are not a distraction from national interests, but the best way of securing them.

By progressive values, I really mean the two traditions that gave birth to this party: the radical liberal tradition that emphasises individual freedom and democratic rights; and the social democratic emphasis on a more just and equal distribution of resources. Both are critical to furthering our national interests.

Promoting democracy and human rights is the best way of protecting Britain. The main threats to security emanate from countries in weak states, with little rule of law, and no democratic accountability; or authoritarian states where power is unchecked.

Reducing inequalities in income, wealth and power are not only desirable things in their own right, they contribute to a safer world.

The Tories now claim to agree with our goals. But David Cameron says that “progressive ends will best be met through conservative means.” And that is the new con, in Cameron’s conservatives. You cannot deliver progressive ends by Tory isolationism from Europe and Tory anti-statism.

Think of the things we want to achieve in the world, and imagine how you do them without a strong European Union. Democracy has taken root in eastern Europe, in large part, because of the attraction of joining the largest single market in the world. When the EU sets new low-carbon vehicle emission standards, it transforms the global car market. Inequality will only be addressed by the EU playing its part in securing a conclusion to the Doha trade round.

The Tories excessive faith in the power of the nation is ill-suited to an interdependent world. But so too is the Tories excessive scepticism in the power of the state. Climate change will not be addressed without incentives to move from high carbon to low carbon technology. Financial markets need more effective regulation. Poverty will not be tackled without large transfers of income. On their own markets, do not produce the global public goods we need; markets have to be shaped by states.

If the Tories were in power. I fear the Tories would oscillate between hubris and fatalism: between thinking they can achieve more than they can with the means at their disposal; and then retreating to a more conventional foreign policy, preserving narrowly defined national interests, forgetting that poverty and authoritarianism will store up problems that will spill over into our borders.

So my message is simple. We can win the next election because it is our party that has the right values to deliver security and opportunity. We must defend our record, by being candid about its strengths and weaknesses. We must set out a bold vision. And we must show why conservatives means cannot deliver our progressive ends.

David Miliband is the  President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee
He was foreign secretary from 2007 until 2010 and MP for South Shields from 2001 until this year. 

Show Hide image

A global marketplace: the internet represents exporting’s biggest opportunity

The advent of the internet age has made the whole world a single marketplace. Selling goods online through digital means offers British businesses huge opportunities for international growth. The UK was one of the earliest adopters of online retail platforms, and UK online sales revenues are growing at around 20 per cent each year, not just driving wider economic growth, but promoting the British brand to an enthusiastic audience.

Global e-commerce turnover grew at a similar rate in 2014-15 to over $2.2trln. The Asia-Pacific region, for example, is embracing e-marketplaces with 28 per cent growth in 2015 to over $1trln of sales. This demonstrates the massive opportunities for UK exporters to sell their goods more easily to the world’s largest consumer markets. My department, the Department for International Trade, is committed to being a leader in promoting these opportunities. We are supporting UK businesses in identifying these markets, and are providing access to services and support to exploit this dramatic growth in digital commerce.

With the UK leading innovation, it is one of the responsibilities of government to demonstrate just what can be done. My department is investing more in digital services to reach and support many more businesses, and last November we launched our new digital trade hub: www.great.gov.uk. Working with partners such as Lloyds Banking Group, the new site will make it easier for UK businesses to access overseas business opportunities and to take those first steps to exporting.

The ‘Selling Online Overseas Tool’ within the hub was launched in collaboration with 37 e-marketplaces including Amazon and Rakuten, who collectively represent over 2bn online consumers across the globe. The first government service of its kind, the tool allows UK exporters to apply to some of the world’s leading overseas e-marketplaces in order to sell their products to customers they otherwise would not have reached. Companies can also access thousands of pounds’ worth of discounts, including waived commission and special marketing packages, created exclusively for Department for International Trade clients and the e-exporting programme team plans to deliver additional online promotions with some of the world’s leading e-marketplaces across priority markets.

We are also working with over 50 private sector partners to promote our Exporting is GREAT campaign, and to support the development and launch of our digital trade platform. The government’s Exporting is GREAT campaign is targeting potential partners across the world as our export trade hub launches in key international markets to open direct export opportunities for UK businesses. Overseas buyers will now be able to access our new ‘Find a Supplier’ service on the website which will match them with exporters across the UK who have created profiles and will be able to meet their needs.

With Lloyds in particular we are pleased that our partnership last year helped over 6,000 UK businesses to start trading overseas, and are proud of our association with the International Trade Portal. Digital marketplaces have revolutionised retail in the UK, and are now connecting consumers across the world. UK businesses need to seize this opportunity to offer their products to potentially billions of buyers and we, along with partners like Lloyds, will do all we can to help them do just that.

Taken from the New Statesman roundtable supplement Going Digital, Going Global: How digital skills can help any business trade internationally

0800 7318496