By Denis Bright
Contrary to popular wisdom, Britain’s significance to Australia has probably increased since the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump in 2016.
Soon adrift from a future formal membership of the European Union, a Conservative Britain is free to interact with Europe on its own terms.
Britain’s global outreach is also reinforced by financial and security ties with the US and the vast network of British Commonwealth countries on all continents in the old Cold War traditions (The Guardian Online 23 March 2017).
To this Anglo-world, there are new pragmatic links with merging regional powers such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Gulf States, Turkey and Israel in terms of both investment and security ties.
As Election Day approaches, opinion polls show that Labour has a popular vote that is now firming towards the level attained at the 2015 general election.
This level of polling is not good for Labour. The Conservatives have recaptured most of the votes temporarily lost to the UK Independence Party (UKIP).The Conservative vote is now 7-10 per cent higher than in 2015.
Labour seems to have lost its heartland Scottish constituencies to the SNP. There is even some revival in the Scottish Conservative vote outside the major lowland urban areas.
In a House of Commons of 650 members, Labour will congratulate itself on containing its losses to 50-60 seats. Conservatives numbers should be at least 380.
Events such as last weekend’s cyber-attacks on ageing National Health computer systems might add to the volatility of current polling in either direction. Britain is heading back to towards the traditional two-party voting divide outside Scotland and Northern Ireland.
A strong Conservative mandate for Theresa May offers welcome support for Donald Trump’s international ambitions for unilateral military responses by the US and through NATO networks.
Beyond the formal members there is a new network of seven regional partners across the Middle East and North Africa which have strong security accords with NATO Members. Overtures have also been made to Malta, Cyprus and the Gulf States.
NATO mentoring programmes exist with political leaders from the Ukraine, Georgia, other South Caucasus countries and Central Asian nations as far as Mongolia. Russia competes with NATO countries for strategic influence in Kyrgyzstan.
Since 2001 US and NATO troops are stationed at air-bases in Manas (Kyrgyzstan) and at Karchi-Khanabad (Uzbekistan) maintain military supply lines to Afghanistan. (NATO Defense College Foundation Online 2016).
After Brexit, a Conservative Britain can also continue to play a strategically more active role in the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. This is a non-elected forum para-military forum with a secretariat in Brussels and an emphasis on gaining more political support for global counter-terrorism operations from Africa to Central Asia.
Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn’s offers alternative consensus-building responses to such challenges.
Despite his appeals, pre-election polling still shows a sea of Conservative blue across England.
Labour is offering clear centre-left alternatives.
Labour’s Alternative Approach to International Security
Speaking at Chatham House on 12 May 2017, Jeremy Corbyn offered some relief from continued participation in these international intrigues (The Telegraph Online, 13 May 2017):
“A Labour Government will want a strong and friendly relationship with the United States. But we will not be afraid to speak our mind.
The US is the strongest military power on the planet by a very long way. It has a special responsibility to use its power with care and to support international efforts to resolve conflicts collectively and peacefully.
Waiting to see which way the wind blows in Washington isn’t strong leadership. And pandering to an erratic Trump administration will not deliver stability”.
But the ace-card in the Conservative campaign is always the old assumption that the Conservatives are better financial managers.
Lack-luster Conservative Economic Performance after Brexit
The emphasis by Theresa May’s Conservatives on strategic security provides a useful diversion away from closer examination of these financial issues and the economic consequences of Brexit on private capital flows.
Despite negative news coverage of economic performance in France, OECD growth projections for Britain in 2017-18 are only a notch higher.
The loss of capital inflows from Continental Europe after Brexit is likely to be off-set by new financial ties with Wall Street and the expanding network of new NATO associates in developing countries.
As with the Australia-US Alliance, NATO has broadened from a purely strategic alliance to a strong political and economic accord. This is taken more seriously by British conservatives than their continental counter-parts who are less forthcoming with military expenditure to support their strategic rhetoric.
British arms sales to Middle East trouble spots make a significant contribution to the export sector. State of the art military sales to Saudi Arabia are so lucrative for Britain that they almost pay for the costs of oil imports (The Guardian Online 17 February 2017).
Jeremy Corbyn offers the logical alternative of more sustainable investment at home and an emphasis on negotiations in international relations.
Such concerns are of little consequence for Conservative MP Mark Menzies in the safe Lancashire constituency of Fylde:
The defence industry is of huge importance to the local economy in my constituency. BAE Systems employs approximately 5,500 workers at its Warton Aerodrome site in Fylde, while a further 4,500 people are employed less than 15 miles away, at Samlesbury. It is crucial that these high-skilled manufacturing jobs continue to be supported, driving and sustaining a buoyant economy in this part of North West England.
Any form of ban on defence exports would also have a considerable impact upon the UK’s own military capabilities. Arms licenses provide valuable income, a proportion of which is spent on research and development work into new technology, ensuring that our military remains among the world’s best. In an uncertain era this is more critical than ever.
If the vote on 8 June 2017 follows current polling trends expect a belligerent Conservative Britain to reactivate its strategic and intelligence ties with the Old Commonwealth and the global military support-base of the expanding Trump Empire. The option of online donations to British Labour should always be considered.
Denis Bright is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in promoting discussion to evaluate pragmatic public policies that are compatible with contemporary globalization. Denis will be travelling in Italy and France later this month.