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Foreign Policy Centre

Ideas for a fairer world


A foreign policy for the people? Do politicians and the public agree on Britain's future role in the world?

University of Essex & University of Leeds logos

DATE: Tuesday 28 June 2011

TIME: 6.30-8.00pm

VENUE: Committee Room 3A, House of Lords, London SW1A 0PW (Use Cromwell Green Visitors' entrance)


  • Rt Hon Lord David Howell, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  • Kim Sengupta, Defence and Diplomatic Correspondent, The Independent
  • Dr Graeme Davies, Lecturer, International Security, University of Leeds
  • Dr Rob Johns, Senior Lecturer, Dept of Politics, University of Essex
  • Prof Jason Ralph, Professor in International Relations & Director of Research, University of Leeds

Chair: Sir Robert Worcester DL KBE, Chair & Founder, MORI

This Foreign Policy Centre event in partnership with the Universities of Essex and Leeds is the second in a series examining the relationship between UK foreign policy and public opinion. This event will provide a timely opportunity to debate public support for past, current and future UK military interventions overseas and the "special relationship" with the United States.

It is almost universally acknowledged that a hallmark of British foreign policy under Tony Blair's Labour government was liberal interventionism: a willingness to use force abroad for various purposes - humanitarian intervention, peacekeeping and regime change - even if British national interests were seemingly involved only indirectly. As Blair argued at the time: "…a political philosophy that does care about other nations - Kosovo, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone - and is prepared to change regimes on their merits, should be gung-ho on Saddam."

A parallel argument could be said to underlie the present coalition government's decision to join military action in Libya. This suggests a cross-party consensus in favour of liberal interventionism. Yet, this raises questions: first, is elite political consensus on foreign policy in the UK as clear as it appears? What role should a UN mandate play in UK policymaking, especially when it clashes with US policy? In particular, will Labour in opposition maintain the same foreign policy approach? Second, where does the UK public stand? Is there general support for the principles underlying Labour's and now the coalition's seeming interventionism? What effect have the Afghanistan and Iraq wars had on British public opinion concerning military action, especially in light of the recent Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), the related defence cuts and the current unprecedented levels of public support for the armed forces?

If you would like to attend, please RSVP to:

Download Dr Rob Johns & Dr Graeme Davies' presentation (440 kilobyte PDF)