Mr Miliband is presiding over a dreadful period for the UKâ€™s reputation abroad. Our foreign policy bears the imprint of the last foreign visitor or international institution we have dealings with. We retreat and change positions as overseas visitors and meetings demand. The US delivered the insult to the French at the time of the Iraq war that they were â€œsurrender monkeysâ€. Who are the surrender monkeys now?
In the last few days we have seen the humiliating spectacle of the UK government rushing to reassure France and Germany that the UK will speedily complete its ratification of the Constitutional treaty without asking the people, as if Ireland had not voted against. The UK government surrendered to the common Franco-German position. Simultaneously we have seen the government plant a story on the front page of the Sunday Times that the same Treaty is dead, just before inviting sensibly Eurosceptic Mr Murdoch to dinner at Number 10 with the US President. Clearly the government was unwilling to stand up to Mr Murdoch in defence of its view that the Constitutional treaty has to be railroaded through the UK Parliament, ignoring the wishes of the British people. The President announced in advance of his visit that he wished to stiffen the UKâ€™s resolve not to pull out of Iraq to any prearranged timetable. The government went on radio and TV and dutifully said they had no pre-arranged timetable to leave, yet we have seen suggestions in the media that they do intend to get our troops out within the next year.
No wonder people hold our government in low esteem, and no wonder people do not believe much of what they say. Mr Miliband should have stood proud for the UK. He should have said to France and Germany:
â€œThe Irish vote changes everything. The Treaty cannot now be ratified by all 27 states. If we held a referendum in the UK as we should it would be voted down here as well. Let us use the next summit to discuss ways of reducing the unpopularity of the Union with many of the people who live within it. By all means cut the numbers of senior officials and streamline its procedures, but with a view to it doing less and better, not with a view to it grabbing more power away from elected governments. We could cut officials, reduce regulation and do less without the need for a big new Treaty. The EU has to say to the people of Ireland that their views are respected, and mean it. It is quite unacceptable for the Union to be threatening or sidelining any member because they have the wrong views or are a small country.â€
He should have said to Mr Bush:
â€œThe UK Parliament and people are unhappy at the way our joint military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan have worked out. We admire all that our troops have done, and are concerned by the continuing high casualty levels. We would like to agree a private timetable with you for joint withdrawal, but if that is not possible we do intend to get our troops home from Iraq soon. It was never our intention to become a permanent army of occupation or a police force for Iraq. We believe in self-determination of peoples.â€