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My speech in Queens Speech debate on Britain in the World

I spoke about the reasons for Labour's General Election defeat and the lessons for the future in the debate on the Queens Speech on 1 June .  You can watch it here. 




or read my speech below. 

1 Jun 2015 : Column 370

6.40 pm

Mike Gapes (Ilford South) (Lab/Co-op): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron). He and I served on the Foreign Affairs Committee in the last Parliament, and I want to begin by paying tribute to two other of my colleagues from that Committee, Frank Roy and Sandra Osborne, who were assiduous Members of the House, but who were, sadly, swept away by the nationalist tsunami in Scotland.

In the four minutes I have, I wish to concentrate on something very sad: the total lack during the general election campaign of debate about Britain’s role in the world and about foreign policy—there was not even a serious debate about our future in Europe. We were obsessed with micro-issues, and, from the Labour side, we had no narrative, no vision and no sense of where our country was going. Unfortunately, that allowed our opponents to set the agenda far too much.

I made my maiden speech 23 years ago during the Queen’s Speech debate on foreign policy. I am pleased that, at this election, my constituents in Ilford South gave me the best result Labour has ever achieved. I got 64% of the vote—up from 49%—and a majority of 19,777. That is in London—multicultural, multiracial, diverse London, which is the greatest global city in the world.

Labour did not do badly everywhere in the election. We did not lose the election in Scotland, but in England. [Interruption.] We lost it overall to the Conservatives in England. The Labour party has to win back a majority in England, but we will not do so by chasing an agenda that fails to recognise that globalisation is a fact, that immigration is a good thing and that, if the brightest and the best from Europe and elsewhere in the world wish to come, as they have for centuries, to live, work, contribute and study in our country, we should welcome them. There is no future for a party of the left in following a mean and nasty agenda.

There is also no future for the Labour party if we concentrate on a debate about the past. We must have a vision for the future, and we must talk about Britain’s place in the world—yes, our role on the Security Council, our role in the European Union, our links with the Commonwealth and our role as a global trading nation. However, foreign policy is more than that. We have a narrow, mercantilist Government, who believe that the role of the Foreign Office should be simply to boost trade with the BRICs—Brazil, Russia, India and China. The reality is that this country has a moral responsibility: we defined international standards in 1948, and British diplomats played a key role in establishing the United Nations and the universal declaration of human rights, so we should be at the forefront of trying to defend and strengthen those today.

Labour should be proud to be a global, internationalist party, and we as a country should be internationalist and open in our approach. I am delighted that UKIP got only 5% of the vote in my constituency, and I look forward to that being the case elsewhere in the country in years to come.

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