Mr Brown should curb public spending, not go begging for cash from sovereign wealth funds

What price an ethical foreign policy?

Today sees Mr Brown in China trying to act as a super salesman for British business. It is a relatively harmless use of his time, forced upon him by the dire straits of the UK economy under his policies.

Mr Brown has debauched the strong economy he inherited. His first couple of years wisely continued Conservative spending plans and repaid public debt, but elsewhere the long march of this government to a malfunctioning socialist economy had begun. The undermining of the Bank of England proved to be a long fuse to the explosive Northern Rock crisis. The taxation of pension funds began the route march to most people no longer having the benefit of a final salary scheme, whilst burdening too many companies with large deficits to repay.

Worse followed after 2001 when Mr Brown embarked on an irresponsible twin track ?? easy money, and massive spending increases on public services. Because he wrongly saw all public spending as ??investment?? and felt large sums were proof of better service, he failed to ask the obvious question ??What am I buying for all this cash??? The answer turns out to be a whole load of extra civil servants, spin doctors, consultancy contracts, pay awards, quangos and regulators.

Ten years on the UK is one of the world leaders for twin deficits ?? a record balance of payments deficit, and a large government borrowing requirement. Alarmed by the record deficits on the balance of trade figures which he used to pour over to harry the Conservatives when in government, he decided on a trip to China. It is a sign of his desperation that he feels the need to act as pied piper to the British business community to sell more there, and to see the need to ask the Chinese government for more Chinese funds to be invested in the UK. He is right we require the money, to pay for our double deficits.

When the Labour government first came into office its then Foreign Secretary Robin Cook claimed they would run an ethical foreign policy. The phrase was chosen to imply that all previous UK foreign policies had been other than ethical. The Labour knight was to wear the purest white, and would charge into world Councils with morality as the billowing pennant on the lance.

Today that seems a very long time ago. We look back on the invasion of Iraq, the continuing fighting in Afghanistan, the lack of any action over Zimbabwe, the skirting round North Korea, the inconsistent approach to other countries gaining nuclear weapons and the erratic response to human rights abuses and have to ask what ethical or moral stance now lies behind these actions? Arent they all driven by media, by events, by US pressure, by EU argument, by a growing sense in the present Foreign Office that there are many obvious limits to British power?

Worse still, when many want Mr Brown to raise Chinas human rights record as the central issue whilst there is still a window of opportunity before the Olympics, many of us are embarrassed to say this when we look at the deteriorating record of human rights in our own country. Now the UK wants to have the western record for detention without trial or charge, seeks to stifle public opinion by ratting on the promise of a referendum, spends a fortune on clumsy physical ??security?? at so many places and events, treats travellers like suspects or criminals and intensifies the range of thought crimes that preoccupy the elite, we are no longer in a good position to lecture China even if we wanted to.

Mr Browns visit recognises the reality of the new world order. China is emerging as a superpower, with a fast growing economy, a large population, and a wish to project its power. When a country has more than $1 trillion in the bank it is difficult to argue with it, especially when our country has been newly impoverished by Mr Browns policies. He sold our gold holdings for a fraction of its current market value, ransacked our long term savings, failed to stop a run on a British bank and now needs to go cap in hand to China to seek inward investment to the UK. These are sorry times for our country. They have been brought on by incompetent stewardship of our money. It is humiliating to see our Prime Minister ask for sovereign wealth fund money from China to keep us afloat. If he really wanted to improve the UK economy he should have stayed at home, working on how to get more value from his public spending, and how he could curb spending so we do not need to borrow so much.


  1. Stuart Fairney
    January 18, 2008

    It is at least gratifying that someone is mentioning the desperate plight of the economy with huge balance of payments problems, and structural public debt brought on by massive over-spending in an expanded public sector. The BBC seem happy to ignore this (focussing instead on pointless conjecture about Britney Spears etc etc ad nauseum) but even they won't be able to ignore it for much longer

  2. old school
    January 18, 2008

    Bit rich for John to dismiss the government's foreign policy as unethical, when he was a Cabinet minister during the Arms to Iraq scandal.

    I don't remember the economy being that robust during the early 1990s either, in fact we're we in recession?

    Lastly John, are you proposing we were wrong to go into Afghansitan? Or that we should pull out?

    Reply: The Conservative government never claimed to be running an ethical foreign policy – we aimed at a realistic policy based on an analysis of the UK's intersts and powers. I did not recommend anything about Afghanistan. Post ERM in the 1990s (a policy recommended by Lib/Labs) tthe economy performed wlel.

  3. Iain
    January 18, 2008

    "Today sees Mr Brown in China trying to act as a super salesman for British business. It is a relatively harmless use of his time, forced upon him by the dire straits of the UK economy under his policies."

    Actually I think its quite worrying, for Brown has gone to China to sell British assets to the Chinese States sovereign fund. Are we mad? For it must be madness to sell our assets to a totalitarian state. The real problem is that China has an undervalued currency, yet no one in the British state seems to be bothered with it, yet its that undervalued currency which is hollowing out our economy, and giving them the resources to purchase our assets.

  4. Bexie
    January 18, 2008


    Have a look at the latest free market foundation comment on South Africa, it is interesting in that they publish figures that show the cost of paying people to sit on their backsides and do nothing. In short there is a direct link between high welfare and low growth, meaning the cost of rampant socialism is less cake to redistribute, supporting Dr Tame's theory that ultimately socialism is self destructive.


  5. Neil Craig
    January 18, 2008

    To be fair to Cook what he said was that foreign policy should have "an ethical dimension" which is not guaranteeing complete, or even substantial, purity.

    Then he told Parliament that the majority of killings in Kosovo were being carried out by our genocidal KLA friends not the Serbs & followed this up by calling bombing hospitals to support this genocide "humanitarian bombing".

    Thus while he can be accused of not living up to his standards the suggestion that he chose overly high standards is unfair.
    Reply: He did not always make this subtle distinction when questioned about his "ethical foreign policy". It was spun as a contrast to the previous administration which by implicaiton was deemed unethical. It was spun hard as a new age of enlightenment.

  6. Bazman
    January 18, 2008

    Must come down to countries not having friends only interests.
    Not an excuse for Google and other Internet companies that sold out though.

  7. mikestallard
    January 19, 2008

    One of the major triumphs of Brown while Chancellor was to pretend that Ken Clarke had left him an empty treasury and a badly performing economy. Not surprisingly, everyone believed this rubbish.
    Old School cannot be that old, can they. Otherwise they would remember.
    Also, of course, you are quite right; the "ethical foreign policy" was exactly as you describe it. Including the fact that it was Mr Major who started off the peace process (also not acknowledged by the Labour incomers.

  8. John Wrexham
    January 20, 2008

    dear john redwood,

    Just remember what Gordon Brown always says about guardianship of the economy under New Labour ' No return to boom ( housing inflation, public debt, private debt, balance of trade deficit) and bust (Northern Rock, govt IT schemes, tax credits, the housing market, final salary pension schemes, NHS trusts, the Olympics delivery authority….)

    Thinking of Robin Cook, he did at least resign over iraq, when Blair stopped even pretending to have an ethical foreign policy with his '45 mins' and the dodgy dossier, so at least the ginger one tried to be ethical, unlike our 'wear my beliefs on my sleeve' ex-prime minister.

    As for the public sector, i work there and what it really needs is leadership from the top with public service ethos at its core. instead it has adopted the worst habits of the private sector ie short termism, focus on profits rather than service, increasing pay differentials, golden handshakes, while devaluing the qualities of the public sector: service to all according to need, not being run by bean counters, being a vocation and altruistic professionalism. what the public sector needs is the qualities of the private sector but these can't be introduced by decree from Downing Street nor by overpaid consultants.

  9. Adrian Peirson
    January 24, 2008

    Not widely Known is the fact that The Bank of England is a Private Company Owned by Rothschild. When the Govt Spends it does so by Borrowing from the Bank of England.
    We, the Public service the Interest charged by this Private Company, via Taxes.
    If the Crown Printed and Coined its own Money (Preferablt Gold, Silver, Platinum ) then there would be no Interest Owed saving us Billions in Taxes.
    This scam, was one of the reasons behind the Gold Sell Off, the country is being Gutted by Our Global Elite and their Westminster Puppets.

  10. Rose
    January 24, 2008

    I should like a lot more discussion on the bombing of Serbia. This was carried out by a Democrat president and therefore not subject to the media criticism a Republican would have got. A. Campbell told our media the war was prosecuted because there was an humanitarian crisis, and that was swallowed. But it was the NATO bombing which caused the big crisis: 100,000 people fleeeing (an appalling spectacle which did not initially happen in Iraq), and could be said to have been precipitated by the KLA tail wagging the NATO dog – that is to say, make things really nasty with a few outrages here and there, and the US and UK will come in, as they did in Bosnia, and we will get the settlement we could not possibly get in peacetime. It could be said that by giving Blair and Clinton such an easy ride over Kosovo the media led Blair to believe the trick could be repeated in Iraq and that he persuaded his new friend GWB of this, rather than the other way round. Alas, it was a Republican president, and the Democrats and their friends in the media will happily set the world alight to get their man back in the White House.

    What I should like to know is why NATO was abused in this way in the first place? What was the real reason Clinton wanted to bomb the Serbs? Was it to distract attention from Monica? Did Madeleine have some reason in her past? Why did Blair do it? Was it really just an ethical foreign policy in its first stages? Whatever the reason they didn't sort anything out, and we are still expected to be responsible for what happens next.

    Reply: I agree there should be more discussion of this.

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