The UK Labour Party’s Foreign and Security Policy


On Wednesday 25th April, the European Leadership Network (ELN) and Salamanca Group co-hosted the latest breakfast briefing part of the Strategic Insight series on “The UK Labour Party’s Foreign and Security Policy.”

The event was chaired by Ian Kearns, member of the ELN board, who introduced the discussion before passing over to key note speakers: Lord David Triesman, Group Director at Salamanca Group and board member at ELN. He also served as Under-Secretary of State in Tony Blair’s foreign office. He spoke alongside the Admiral Lord Alan West, First Sea Lord, security adviser to Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Home Office Parliamentary Under-Secretary responsible for security.

The speakers were to enlighten the guests on Labours foreign and defence policy and attitude to national and European security. Not an easy task when the audience, and perhaps a large proportion of the general public, would admit to being rather ill-informed on the issue from the communications offered by the current Labour party core.

Lord Alan West opened the discussion, speaking on defence, before Lord Triesman elucidated the audience on Labour’s current foreign policy.  With Britain facing a different security landscape to previous years with the coming of Brexit meaning the need to develop new allies, and the existence of new forms of hybrid warfare as we potentially saw in the Salisbury attack, the incumbent party has new policy issues to traverse. An interesting point raised was that historically, Labour have spent more money on defence than the conservatives, conflicting general public presumptions surrounding the two parties outlooks in this area. A prominent advantage and one that speakers stressed, Labour would leverage the UK’s strength in soft power such as its top educational institutions, its abundance of skilled workers and the simple fact that our language is spoken worldwide. Of course, there are issues of financing when it comes to defence, but ultimately, especially in times of heightened threat from external forces, spending on defence should not be tied to a figure as to protect the nation and its people should always be first priority. They also discussed Labours industrial policy, how they would favour UK manufacturers in order to combat the lost opportunity in investment in apprentices and skilled workers, missed when choosing to import from abroad.

Ultimately, as we all see in the media, and reiterated by the discussion, there are current divisions and internal contradictions existent in the Labour party. These must be resolved, uniting to deliver what supporters want if they are to be the majority party and lead the UK in our current uneasy and multifaceted security landscape.

The next Strategic Insight breakfast focuses on China and will be held in June. If you are interested in attending please contact