Foreign Affairs
Foreign Affairs

In the last two years in which I have been Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, I have felt the force of world affairs hurtling from event to event, with governments scrambling to respond. I have observed this first-hand in over forty four trips across the world and I have been left convinced that without a real strategic compass underpinning our work, foreign policy can easily devolve into incoherent crisis response.

My new essay in Foreign Affairs magazine outlines ‘The Case for Progressive Realism’. This is the underpinning of how the next Labour government will deliver our goal of a Britain Reconnected, as I laid out in my pamphlet for the Fabian Society last year.

Progressive Realism advocates using realist means to pursue progressive ends. For the British government, that requires tough-minded honesty about the United Kingdom, the balance of power, and the state of the world. But instead of using the logic of realism solely to accumulate power, progressive realism uses it in the service of just goals — for example climate change, defending democracy, and advancing the world’s economic development. It is the pursuit of ideals without the delusions about what is achievable.

I’m sure you will be thinking what Progressive Realism will mean for each of Britain’s very specific challenges such as Europe, Ukraine and China. These are explored in the essay and also in an abridged version in the Guardian.

In the face of conflict in the Middle East, in the short term, we urgently need an immediate ceasefire complied with by both sides, the immediate return of all the hostages cruelly held by Hamas terrorists, and for Israel to lift the unacceptable restrictions on aid flows to enable a massive surge of supplies into Gaza. But in the medium term, progressive realism means seeking the same things for Ukraine, Israel, and Palestine: for each to be a sovereign, secure, and internationally recognised state, at peace with its neighbours. This is why the next Labour government will be committed to working with international partners to recognise Palestine as a state, as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution.

When progressives act realistically and practically, they change the world. The United Kingdom urgently needs a foreign policy that brings together the best of Bevin and Cook. It needs progressive realism to kickstart an era of renewal, with a sharper and more hopeful vision for the country’s role in the world.

I hope you enjoy the piece.



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