Leading article: Mr Hague spins the globe

Share

A well-constructed speech, delivered with panache, is always welcome at a party conference, and by those standards one of the most reliable performers is William Hague. Now shadow Foreign Secretary, Mr Hague met his audience-appreciation quota with ease yesterday, but he failed to dispel doubts about the direction in which the Conservative Party's foreign policy is heading.

The shift to the centre ground, so deliberate in other policy areas, has generally been less evident here - save in one respect: relations with the United States. Yesterday, Mr Hague took up David Cameron's recent pledge that a Conservative government would set greater distance between itself and the US than Tony Blair has done with George Bush.

Repeating Mr Cameron's precise formulation - an alliance that should be "solid, but never slavish" - Mr Hague went a little further than Mr Cameron had done in his implied criticism of the Blair-Bush relationship. Alluding to Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, he spoke of the need to show "respect for the rights of others" and "never besmirch" our values "by the abuse of prisoners or the abandonment of our own rule of law".

Mr Hague continued Mr Cameron's efforts to distance the party from its support for the Iraq war by condemning not the principle of the war, but the US's lack of preparation for the aftermath. And he signalled no change to the revised position on Europe. The plan is still for the party to break away from the European People's Party in the European Parliament, but not before 2009. It is early days in the new Conservatives' policymaking, as Mr Cameron constantly reminds us. But foreign policy - with Iraq, Afghanistan, relations with the US and Europe all in play - is one area in which the Conservatives could already mount a credible opposition. Yet there is much in the positions presented by Mr Hague yesterday that simply does not add up.

The move away from the US smacks of a quest for short-term domestic advantage, rather than long-term policymaking. A loosening of ties without any rapprochement with Europe looks like a recipe for isolation, however warmly Mr Hague spoke of the Commonwealth as an underused resource.

And what of Mr Hague's promise that a Conservative government, like the present Labour government, would commit itself to requiring a parliamentary vote before sending British troops into combat? As we saw before the Iraq war, a vote is only as useful as the debate that precedes it. The Conservatives failed then to ask the searching questions that were the duty of a responsible Opposition. It is not yet clear that they are asking the right questions now.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The woman featured in the Better Together campaign's latest video  

Tea and no sympathy: The 'Better Together' campaign's mistake is to assume it knows how women think

Jane Merrick
On alert: Security cordons around Cardiff Castle ahead of this week’s Nato summit  

Ukraine crisis: Nato is at a crossroads. Where does it go from here?

Richard Shirreff
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution