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Foreign Policy Centre

Ideas for a fairer world

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Moral Britannia? Evaluating the Ethical Dimension in Labour's Foreign Policy

Nicholas J. Wheeler, Tim Dunne

April 2004

Download the report (90 kilobyte PDF)

Moral Britannia? examines how far reality has matched the famous promise made by Robin Cook to formulate "a foreign policy with an ethical dimension" in the first weeks of the new government in 1997. The phrase came back to haunt Labour on issues as varied as arms sales to support for Bush in Iraq - and, according to authors Tim Dunne and Nicholas Wheeler, led to one of the great foreign policy debates since the 1930s.

It debunks some of the myths surrounding the issue, arguing that an "ethical foreign policy" can be pragmatic, doesn't necessarily involve the sacrifice of national interests, and isn't always as self-evident as critics suggest. Dunne and Wheeler's audit of Labour's record is broadly positive though it concludes that British involvement in the invasion of Iraq was not justifiable. Finally, Moral Britannia? sets out ten lessons to rescue the ethical foreign policy and re-establish relations with the rest of the world based on internationalist values and multilateralist institutions.