The Tory record on austerity, on slashing welfare and making sweeping cuts to public services is well documented– but how much is known about the Tories’ record on key international issues?
The Tories like to talk about Global Britain, but when it comes to real action on the global stage, for our defence and for international prosperity, they have offered nothing but failure.
Just look at what they have said but then done on these key issues:
1. Global Britain
The Claim: “We are a protagonist – a global Britain running a truly global foreign policy.” Boris Johnson, Speaking as Foreign Secretary 2016
The Facts: A succession of cuts have left core diplomatic funding at its lowest level for 20 years.
This report by the British Foreign Policy Group, launched last Tuesday with the support of the Coalition for Global Prosperity, claims the cuts in staffing are inhibiting the Foreign Office’s ability to engage with local populations and may have contributed to the misreading of key recent events, such as the Arab Spring and the Ukraine uprising.
Nearly a third of the diplomatic staff in Commonwealth embassies were cut in the four years to 2016, with cuts of similar levels in Asia
The Verdict: The Tories can’t be trusted with Britain’s global and diplomatic future.
“It is now painfully clear to our allies and adversaries alike that the FCO is way beyond any ability to do ‘more with less’ and is now drawing ever deeper on irreplaceable reserves of long-nurtured capital”Sir Simon Fraser, former permanent secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
2. Climate Change Prevention
The Claim: “We will no longer make any contribution whatsoever to the destruction of our precious planet, brought about by carbon emissions, because we will have led the world in delivering that net-zero target.” Boris Johnson, 25 July 2019
The Facts: While Labour brought forward a motion to make our Parliament the first in the world to declare a global climate and ecological emergency, the Tories did not vote for it.
According to TheyWorkForYou, Boris Johnson has almost always voted against measures to prevent climate change, while Dominic Raab and Alok Sharma have generally voted against measures to prevent climate change.
This includes voting against measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and strategies for carbon capture, but voting for applying the Climate Change Levy to electricity generated from renewable sources.
Boris Johnson has called global warming “a primitive fear” that is “without foundation”.
Meanwhile, the 2019 Tory candidate for Reading East, Craig Morley, has questioned whether climate change is dangerous and argued its risks have been exaggerated as a “socialist Trojan horse”. Morley is a former Foreign Office official who held a job as head of climate change and energy policy for south China.
The Verdict: The Tories can’t be trusted to tackle the climate emergency:
“Both Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth attacked the Tory policy package announced at their Annual Conference 2019 as falling far short of the climate emergency challenge.”https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/conservative-net-zero-emissions-2050-climate-change-green-conference-a9123866.html
Update: On 28 November – Boris Johnson refused to attend a Channel 4 Leaders debate on climate change.
3. EU Nationals
The Claim: “I therefore want to repeat unequivocally our guarantee to the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us.” Boris Johnson, 25 July 2019
The Facts: The latest data from the Home Office on EU Settled Status Scheme applications reveals that only one-third of EU citizens living in the UK have been granted settled status.
Of the nearly 2.4 million applications received by October 31 2019 only 1,925,300 have been concluded, leaving over 525,000 applicants awaiting a decision on their right to remain in the UK. A further 770,000 concluded applications have not yet given full settled status in the UK, providing EU nationals only a temporary leave to remain in the UK.
That the Tories have created a hostile environment is perhaps not surprising given that their voting record shows that Dominic Raab and Alok Sharma have voted against supporting right to remain for EU nationals 13 times, Ben Wallace and Boris Johnson 14 times.
The Verdict: Boris Johnson has broken his promise to EU citizens living in the UK.
“The EU settlement scheme is deeply flawed and even those who succeed in applying are left without physical documents, and will face severe discrimination under the government’s hostile environment.”Chai Patel, Legal Policy Director for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.
4. Democracy, Security & Civil Liberties
The claim: “we are going to restore trust in our democracy.” Boris Johnson, 24 July 2019
The facts: As London Mayor, Johnson said: “I’m not particularly interested in this civil liberties stuff when it comes to these people’s emails and mobile phone conversations. If they are a threat to our society then I want them properly listened to.”
Indeed, when it comes to the government knowing about the affairs of British citizens surveillance in the UK rose significantly under Theresa May. Raab, Wallace, Sharma and the Prime Minister have consistently voted for mass surveillance of people’s communications and activities.
However, when it comes to the Tory Party itself – it’s a different matter. The Prime Minister has blocked the publication a report into alleged Russian interference in British elections, including the Brexit referendum. This is possibly because it also names a number of wealthy Russian Tory Party donors.
Despite calls for the report to be released from numerous sources, the Tories clearly think the public don’t have a right to know about their private dealings with billionaires.
The verdict: Boris Johnson has urgent questions to answer about why he has blocked the publication of a report into alleged Russian interference.
“For all democracies, there’s an urgency to actually uncover what’s been going on.”Damian Collins, Conservative MP & Chair of the DCMS Sub-Committee on Disinformation
5. Armed Forces
The claim: “As Defence Secretary, I am determined to meet these 21st century challenges by delivering reform.” Ben Wallace, Speech to Conservative Annual conference 2019
The facts: Britain faces an increasingly diverse range of security threats, but under the Tories, defence spending has plummeted, and the Army is at its smallest in 200 years.
According to voting records Dominic Raab, Alok Sharma and Ben Wallace all have voted against some measures to strengthen the Armed Forces Covenant. The Armed Forces Covenant is a promise by the nation ensuring that those who serve or who have served in the armed forces, and their families, are treated fairly.
Ben Wallace even voted against a legally binding Military Covenant despite it being a commitment from then Prime Minister David Cameron.
The Tories and Lib Dems agreed a Strategic Defence and Security Review, published in 2010. It was grandly billed as “Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty”, what it actually proposed included:
- Cutting army personnel by 7,000
- Cutting an entire brigade
- Reducing the number of challenger tanks by 40%
- Cutting Royal Navy personnel by 6,000
- Decommissioning 6 ships
- Cutting RAF personnel by 5,000
The Verdict: The Tories can’t be trusted with our Armed Forces, you can’t do defence and security on the cheap.
“You couldn’t make it up. Conduct a so-called Strategic Defence and Security Review to save a lot of money quickly and make a number of random cuts throughout defence based on fallacious, last-minute departmental advice”.Rear Admiral Scott Lidbetter, Chairman of the Fleet Air Arm Officers’ Association
Update: The Conservative’s 2019 manifesto has now dropped the pledge from 2015 and 2017 to maintain the size of the Armed Forces
6. Development Aid
Claim 1: “The Conservative Party’s ultimate goal is about supporting countries to help themselves” Alok Sharma, International Development Secretary 29 September 2019
The Facts: The Tories have a very shaky record on Development Aid, the current Home Secretary Priti Patel was sacked as International Development Secretary by Theresa May for holding unofficial meetings with foreign powers to discuss funnelling development aid funds to their military.
In the same year, now Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab wrote on the Tory blogging site, ConservativeHome that: “A popular start would be to scrap the Department for International Development, moving its functions into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.”
This is a pledge he repeated this year in his unsuccessful bid to become Prime Minister. He proposed to fund the tax cuts partly by closing down or merging Government departments, saying the Department for International Trade and the Department for International Development should be merged with the Foreign Office.
He’s not alone in this outlook though, Boris Johnson has this year also backed call a report by the Henry Jackson Society calling for a multibillion cut to the UK aid budget.
Claim 2: “Our Prime Minister is championing 12 years of quality education for every girl around the world.” Alok Sharma, International Development Secretary 29 September 2019
The Facts: The Tories cut development spending on education by £99 million in the last year. See Statistics on International Development Final UK Aid Spend 2018 – Table 7a
The Verdict: The Tories can’t be trusted to deliver effective, independent aid to those who need it most.
“If DFID is swallowed up by the Foreign Office, or our life-saving, opportunity-enhancing aid commitment is cannibalised, the UK will lose its status as an international development superpower – a role that both secures the UK’s seat at the world’s top tables and is saving and transforming children’s lives in some of the poorest places on earth”Kevin Watkins, CEO, Save the Children
Update: The 2019 Tory manifesto has dropped the commitment to maintaining an independent Department for International Development.
7. Human Rights
The claim: “Under Boris Johnson, we intend to reinforce Britain’s role in the world as a good global citizen.” Dominic Raab, Foreign Secretary, 23 September 2019
The facts: Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is an outspoken critic of the Human Rights Act, the piece of legislation which embeds international human rights protections as part of our laws.
In his previous role as Justice Minister, he masterminded plans to replace the act, claiming he was worried about the sovereignty of British Parliament and judges, as well as how rights could be expanded.
When it comes to new trade deals with foreign countries, there is hardly any mention of protecting human rights, and where it is – the provisions are very limited, vague and difficult to implement. The UK’s agreement with South Korea, signed in August 2019, is the only one that provides some detailed provisions.
In fact, the permanent secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in 2015, that human rights are now seen as less of a priority than the so-called “prosperity agenda’’.
The Verdict: You can’t trust the Tories to prioritise human rights over commercial gain.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) described Boris Johnson’s approach to human rights as “weak, inconsistent, and often incoherent”.
8. Arms Sales
The claim: “I speak of Global Britain – and the need for us to commit ourselves to the peace and prosperity of the world.” Boris Johnson, speaking as Foreign Secretary, 02 December 2016
The facts: The UK has licensed at least £5.3 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since the war in Yemen began in March 2015.
In September 2019, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss was forced to apologise after green-lighting military sales to Saudi Arabia, despite a pledge not to allow the export of goods that could be used in the brutal civil war in Yemen.
In giving the sales the go-ahead, the Government broke a court ruling banning them from granting licences to export weapons and equipment to Saudi Arabia.
The Verdict: You can’t trust the Tories to maintain peace and security on the global stage.
“As foreign secretary, Boris Johnson played a central role in supporting the terrible Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen, which has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.”Andrew Smith, Campaign Against Arms Trade
9. Naval Shipbuilding
The claim: “I look forward to the restoration of British influence and excellence across the world’s oceans.” Boris Johnson, 12 September 2019
The facts: When Boris Johnson appointment Ben Wallace as Defence Secretary he also made him the ‘Ship Building Czar’ and pledged to bring shipbuilding back to the UK.
But within just two months of his appointment, a tender for a £1.5bn contract to build a new fleet of supply ships for the Royal Navy can’t be met by any bidders, and so has been halted.
Since the Tories have been in power the Appledore shipyard in Devon has closed, Ferguson Marine on the Clyde has been nationalised to save it from collapse, and Titanic builder Harland and Wolff in Belfast – the industrialist’s former firm – went into receivership.
The Verdict: The Tories have let shipbuilding decline on their watch, you can’t trust their empty promises.
Tory Peer and former defence Minister Lord Arran has criticised his own government’s policy saying that the UK has come “dangerously close” to losing its shipbuilding industry with a knock-on effect throughout the South West marine sector.Lord Arran, 17 October 2019