David Cameron has strongly criticised the foreign policy of George Bush and Tony Blair and said the Tories would pursue a more independent line from Washington than the present Government.
In his first big foreign policy speech, the Tory leader called for greater use of non-military and multilateral solutions in the world's trouble-spots but backed the use of force to prevent genocide.
Tory aides denied that distancing himself from the Bush administration put him at odds with Margaret Thatcher, who said in Washington yesterday that the attacks of 11 September, 2001, were "an attack on all of us" and declared: "With America, Britain stands in the front line against Islamist fanatics who hate our beliefs, our liberties and our citizens." She added: "We must not falter. We must not fail."
Mr Cameron said Baroness Thatcher as Prime Minister had got the balance of the Anglo-American relationship right but argued Mr Blair had got it wrong. "We should be solid but not slavish in our friendship with America. We have never, until recently, been uncritical allies of America," he said.
"The sooner we rediscover the right balance, the better for Britain and our alliance. This is not anti-American. This is what America wants."
Declaring that he was a "liberal conservative rather than a neo-conservative", Mr Cameron rejected the hawkish approach favoured by some senior Tories. "We must not stoop to illiberalism - whether at Guantanamo Bay, or here at home with excessive periods of detention without trial," he said.
"We must not turn a blind eye to the excesses of our allies - abuses of human rights in some Arab countries, or disproportionate Israeli bombing in Lebanon. We are fighting for the principles of civilisation - let us not abandon those principles in the methods we employ."
The Tory leader said the Bush administration's strategy lacked patience and humility and had been presented through "unrealistic and simplistic" soundbites. He outlined a five-pronged "liberal conservative" approach based on understanding fully the threat faced; recognising that democracy could not be imposed quickly or easily from outside; that a new strategy needed to go far beyond military action; a "new multilateralism" was needed and the world must strive to act with moral authority.
In a reference to the continuing crisis in Iraq, he said: "Liberty grows from the ground - it cannot be dropped from the air by an unmanned drone."Reuse content