David Miliband’s familiar approach to foreign affairs might pay dividends

David Miliband has brought a new 'continental' approach to British foreign policy which might indicate an awareness of a recent power shift

I was impressed to see David Miliband’s continental embrace with French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner the other day and couldn’t help be impressed by this more continental attitude towards foreign affairs. I just don’t think it would have worked for Jack Straw or Robin Cook, and I make no comment about Margaret Beckett!

This might be a personal approach from our young foreign secretary but it might also be an intended strategy on the part of a foreign secretary who knows there are lots of bridges to be mended in foreign affairs. Britain’s apparent subservience to US foreign policy under the Bush Presidency lost Britain a lot of international friends following the apparent abandonment of Robin Cook’s ‘ethical foreign policy.’

Not a day seems to pass without Hillary Clinton commenting on his vibrancy or a personal embrace with the French foreign minister.

So, why would the FCO have gone all European? With the changes in the Lisbon Treaty the European Pillar of defence and foreign affairs will have far more prominence on the world stage and the British Foreign Secretary will have an increasingly important, and potentially difficult, job of maintaining the trans-Atlantic alliance with the United States and the emerging common foreign policy in the EU. 

A militarily pro-active United States might well have less support from a more organised EU than it did from the less formal arrangement of NATO’s means of deployment.

This is presumably where the UK’s Foreign Office will feel it has a role to play and the unquestionably popular British Foreign Secretary will feel he can help to keep the two parties together and maintain the all-important special relationship whilst becoming a bigger player in European foreign policy decision-making.


Is the Compass pointing Gordon Brown to the exit?

Gordon Brown may face yet more discussion about his leadership in the next few weeks...

The political thinktank Compass may be about to deal Gordon Brown a knock out blow to try and unseat him as Labour Leader.

Generally the rule would appear to be that if there is an ‘r’ in the month then there is talk of a coup against the Prime Minister, but this time The Guardian would have us believe that this is a prospect not to be ignored.

David Miliband’s decision not to decamp to Europe might also be a factor in the thought process that perhaps things are not as bad as they might be and perhaps, with a quick game of musical chairs in Downing Street, Labour might be able to stand a chance at the election.

The Guardian argues that; ‘A dialogue has begun within Compass and some central figures argue that other candidates such as home secretary Alan Johnson and foreign secretary David Miliband may support centre-left policies that the group wants Labour to back.’

A spokesman for Compass confirmed that a majority of the management committee of the thinktank thought Gordon Brown should go before the election, to give the party a better chance of success when the election comes.

The timetable, being discussed, is that a leadership contest would follow the pre-budget report with a new leader being in place by early January.

Like all the other putative leadership contests it seems clear that it will probably fizzle out, but the fact that the moderately loyal Compass is moving against the Prime Minister, when it resisted moves in the summer, may be significant.

‘Why do they have Italian salad leaves on Lamb Hot Pot?!’ – A Story of a newly nationalised railway…


The trip from King's Cross was marred another Tory fellow traveller...

Travelling by train in the dark is always a very odd experience but today I am travelling back from London to Scotland, using the newly renationalised rail service – East Coast, that took over from National Express yesterday.

To be fair there is little difference in the service, except that I have to admit I am sitting in First Class, partly because there is £25 upgrade for Weekend First, and the train is packed.

But, whilst I was enjoying my brief moment of 1970s nostalgia as I sat down I once again seemed to have a magnetic attraction to Tories, who seem to sit near me on trains, and today was no exception.

It isn’t my presumption that many Tories travel to York, Newcastle, Berwick or Edinburgh, but this train stopped at Peterborough so perhaps that explains it.

Not seconds after I had sat down came the unmistakeable ramble of a Tory stuck in the wrong century.

‘Why do you have Italian salad leaves on Lamb Hot Pot?!’ To be fair I smiled at the question it seemed relatively reasonable.  But here is the subsequent soliloquy. 

‘Probably some mad European regulation! No doubt that Milliband person coming up with rules that make them do it! They shouldn’t be allowed to breed you know…’

I am not a great fan of the Labour Party, but this seemed to be extreme not to mention deeply offensive to the carriage, as more people than just myself groaned at the man’s apparent lack of manners.

It seems astonishing to me that people like this still really exist, the speech went on for several more minutes and seem to be concerned with pig breeding.

I settled down to my nationalised cup of tea and shortbread biscuit in the knowledge that when he got off the train was bang on time and the sighs of relief seemed apparent, even in First Class!