Monday 27 September 2021 / 1:08 PM Lisa Nandy

CONFERENCE SPEECH: Lisa Nandy MP Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Speech by Lisa Nandy MP
Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

27th September 2021

Brighton Centre


Friends, we meet today in a city which looks out onto the ocean, from an island shaped by waves of immigration.

They include the many children of Empire, like my dad, who came here from India in the 50s and through the struggle to create the Race Relations Act helped forge our national story.

This is the country we can be.

One that lifts our eyes beyond the horizon, to see that together – only together – will we change the lives of people here and across the world.

So as we meet today, for the first time in nearly half a century outside the European Union, I give you my word that we will remain a proud, fiercely internationalist party.

Whether it’s global vaccination or the fight against climate change, our socialism doesn’t end at the coastline.

We cannot solve the world’s problems – or Britain’s – by standing by or standing back.

So I say directly to the Uyghurs in China and the trade unionists in Columbia, to the children of Palestine and the anti-racist campaigners in Charlottesville, Labour stands with you with the strength of our entire movement.

But the brave Afghan women and young people of Hong Kong, they ask more of us than our solidarity, they ask for our help.

And that demands more.

We face challenges unlike any we’ve faced before.

Engaging with a Chinese Government essential to progress on climate change while standing firm in defence of human rights, freedom and security.

A Russian state that uses chemical weapons on the streets of the UK.

A world where drones, cyber-attacks and disinformation can be deployed without consequence against innocent people on the other side of the world.

The Tories say we can turn our backs.

Conference, they are wrong.

Building walls is easy. Building bridges – in the world, in the country and let’s be honest, with each other – that’s the hard part.

When Mo Mowlam went into the Maze she was heavily criticised, but she paved the way for the Good Friday Agreement, an article of faith for us to this day.

When Gordon Brown set out to tackle climate change he reached for the impossible, and negotiated the possible. And created the world’s first climate change act.

Genuine diplomacy demands dialogue especially when we disagree.

Real leadership knows that compromise is not cowardice.

If we are willing to grapple with the world as it is – we can change it.

When crisis engulfed Afghanistan, Labour MPs and staff worked round the clock to assist the evacuation, led with great courage by British and Afghan troops.

It’s Labour Mayors, Councils and the Welsh Government who have stepped up to provide a warm welcome, in stark contrast to the Tories’ operation cold shoulder.

While the Foreign Secretary was on the beach, we were on the pitch. And we didn’t wait for three years, we acted now, because that is what was asked of us.

And we did it the only way that counts – together.

The Tories only have one trick in their playbook. Divide and rule.

When Boris Johnson shamefully abolished the department for international development he said we couldn’t afford to keep our promises to the world’s poorest and help people at home. Then look what he did next. He slashed aid. And then he cut universal credit.

Theirs is a foreign policy for the Lex Greensills and David Camerons  – one where the rewards are theirs, but the appalling losses fall on steel workers in towns like Rotherham.

Conference we will navigate by different stars.

Our foreign policy will put people at its heart, to defend our national security, protect our planet, uphold human rights – and we will do it by building bridges not walls.

Labour will build a trade policy that stops pitting workers in Bolton against workers in Beijing and lifts people up, together. Because as the GMB knew when they took on that global giant Uber, foreign policy is domestic.

So let’s bring the same energy we brought to fighting universal credit cuts to defeating trade models that allow our market to be flooded with cheap goods from China, built on low wages and bad conditions, hurting wages and jobs in towns across Britain.

Almost a century ago the seams of my family were threaded together when the Indian independence campaign, supported by my grandparents, had devastating consequences for Lancashire textile workers. When the cotton stopped coming, the mills stopped running and the workers went hungry.

But members of my family, who worked in those mills, were among those who welcomed Gandhi to Lancashire. Because they knew, as I know, as the first mixed race woman to ever hold this office, that solidarity has power and our struggle is one and the same.

So we will stand up to the oligarchs who subvert our democracy, avoid the taxes that fund our schools and hospitals and use the things that matter to us, the football clubs that stand at the centre of our communities, as playthings.

Today we are launching a new Taskforce on Illicit Finance with the aim of making the UK the most inhospitable place in the world for dirty money and ill-gotten gains. Today, we recognise the fight against corruption as a key plank of defending our national interest.

Friends, the next Labour Government will introduce a new arms export regime that is truly transparent and committed to upholding international law. We will end arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

We will introduce an Act of Parliament so companies have a duty to eliminate forced labour from their supply chains and face financial penalties if they fail. Under a Labour Government, British shelves will never be stocked with the products of modern slavery. We will end cotton imports from Xinjiang.

We will bring an end to a decade of division. Starting with Europe. We are out of the EU but we remain part of Europe.

Comrades even a Government that believes the sea can be closed cannot deny the reality of our geography.

So we will seek a new foreign policy partnership with Europe to address our shared challenges, from climate change to Russia. we will work with EU partners to develop a new action plan for conflict prevention and peacebuilding, to face up to the challenges in places like Somalia, Yemen, and Tigray.

And we will lead the charge at the UN Human Rights Council for a global treaty to end violence against women and girls.

This is the country we can be.

The Tories will tell you that they stand up for our country.

Never let them get away with it.

Dragging their feet on a global minimum corporation tax that could pay for kids catch up education post-pandemic.

Cosying up to Trump as he slaps tariffs on Scotch Whisky, a crown jewel in British industry.

Trading away our wages, allowing practices like fire and rehire to spread through our country.

Conference this is the Government who backed those booing our young England football players who took a stand in support of global resistance to racism. How dare they claim to stand up for Britain.

To Marcus Rashford, to Tyrone Mings – We say you represent the very best of what this country is.

The self-confident country we will lead will be different. One that sheds light not just might around the world.

With the courage to stand up for our values overseas and the kindness to live them at home.

Proud to fly the pride flag over our embassies in countries where loving who you love is a crime.

We will build an agenda for Britain that matches the ambition of the people in it, big and generous not small and petty, measured not in the number of our flags but in the health of our kids and the strength of our communities, in the dignity of our workforce and the security of our nation.

We are the party that helped bring the United Nations into being, signed the landmine ban into law, created the world’s first climate change act and cancelled developing world debt. When we faced up to the challenge, we lifted millions out of poverty at home and overseas and lit up the darkness.

We did it before, and we can do it again. But we do it the only way that counts. Together.