London, Asharq Al-Awsat- British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has reaffirmed his country’s commitment to support the principles of justice and democracy throughout the world, saying that it is the only policy that would guarantee the security of his country.
Miliband stressed the need to remain optimistic and to have faith in the ability to accomplish achievements in Britain at large and within the Labor Party in particular, following several months of dwindling party popularity and internal divisions. These statements were made by Miliband in a rousing speech he delivered on the third day of the Labor Party conference in Manchester, yesterday. He reaffirmed his support for Prime Minister Gordon Brown amid speculations that Miliband is one of the politicians who have the best chance to lead the party. Remarkably, Miliband has been a Labor Party activist for years, and he has become one of the prominent leaders of the party through his work as foreign secretary since the formation of the first Brown government in the summer of 2007.
The basic message of Miliband’s speech stated: “We must end defeatism and replace it with optimism,” adding: “The future has not been decided yet.” He was speaking about foreign policy, and he was sending a veiled message to the party that fears to see its popularity declining to the level of the conservatives when they were last in government. The foreign minister spoke about the achievements of the Labor Party, especially with regard to Africa, before directly addressing Brown, and saying: “Brown, you have focused debates on offering foreign assistance to those who need it, and on supporting democracy and human rights.” The crowd responded with enthusiastic applause for Brown, and then Miliband went on to say: “Our party was set up to fight for democracy and equality in our country, but we have to go further than this,” adding: “If we want to protect ourselves from terrorism in our country, we must defend and promote democracy and human rights abroad.”
Brown, together with Miliband, Secretary of State for International Development Douglas Alexander, Defense Secretary Des Browne and Party Deputy Leader Harriet Harman attended a private, lengthy meeting devoted to the party’s foreign policy. The meeting was marked by debates that covered financial aid to the developing and poor countries in the world, as well as the need to support peoples in troubled countries like Zimbabwe. Zimbabwean Speaker Lovemore Mayo was present at the conference; he thanked Brown for his ‘personal’ support for the Zimbabwean people and for his opposition to President Robert Mugabe’s repression.
Clearly, the Labor Party leaders have tried to steer away from speaking in detail about the Iraq issue and the decision to go to war in 2003 amid strong divisions within the party and in the country. Concerning Iraq, Miliband, in his speech, made just two mentions of Iraq: First, he mentioned his visit to the British troops there; and second, he called for “the setting up of a transatlantic alliance that transcends disputes over the Iraq war, and making such an alliance strong and united.” However, Iraq was not totally absent from the conference. In this respect, Miliband and Defense Secretary Des Browne have taken part in a seminar entitled: “The Lessons we Have Learned. The Labor Policy After Iraq.” Speaking at the seminar, Miliband said: “Foreign policy is important (to the electorate). We have learned this.” Miliband added in his speech at the seminar in which Asharq Al-Awsat was present: “The situation in Palestine is an issue that is more of interest to the electorate here than any other issue, even more than Iraq, and we must deal with it.” He warned that neglecting a settlement of this issue would be a threat to the world, saying: “All warning messages indicate that it might become impossible to tackle this issue.” Miliband added: “We must deal with it immediately; there is hope for a fresh move to reactivate the peace process seven years after it had been impeded.” He added: “There is nothing more important to world peace than a secure Israel alongside a Palestinian state.” The British defense secretary also took part in the seminar, and said: “Our relationship with Iraq will change in the middle of next year, but we will remain committed to it.”
In a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, the British defense secretary said: “We will not leave Iraq without completing our mission. We are committed to Iraq,” and he added that attaching interest in the situation in Afghanistan does not mean moving away from Iraq. He pointed out: “It would be wrong to say that Iraq has distracted us from Afghanistan (in 2003), and it would be wrong to imagine that interest in Afghanistan would distract us from Iraq.” It should be noted that the Al-Da’wah Party, the party of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, has taken part in the Labor conference for the first time. For her part, Catherine West, Labor Council group leader in Islington, north London, said: “We in the party have been affected by the war in Iraq. We have lost the support of Asian voters and we must see whether we can deal with this at the next elections.”
Catherine West added to Asharq Al-Awsat: “We need to see whether we can win over voters through an efficient policy to settle the Palestinian issue.” Miliband had focused on clarifying his future foreign policy plans at seminars on Iraq and Russia, but during this Labor conference he focused on widening his activities within the Labor party and on getting closer to the electorate. In fact Miliband has participated in more than eight seminars on the sidelines of the conference, and held meetings with party delegates to discuss the party’s future policy. Earlier this week, Miliband said: “I am not in favor of elections to the party leadership. The party must unite and we must speak under the leadership of Gordon (Brown).”
Despite the fact that voices calling for a change of the Labor Party leadership died down during the conference, they are expected to be raised again by the end, if no tangible policy is adopted to save the party’s electoral chances.