The first instalment of the Shadow Defence Secretary’s diary appeared yesterday.
The first thing to note about Washington today is that it is absolutely freezing- the coldest spell in ten years. If the weather is frosty, however, the welcome is anything but. There are two pieces of good news to deliver today. The first is that people are genuinely interested in what the Conservative Party has to say. I have been here on many visits where we have always been treated with great courtesy and politeness. This time everyone we meet wants to know how David Cameron and his team will react to a range of scenarios and, as a result of our improved standing in the polls, interest in our policy development is high. There is also a great deal of curiosity about the change in Labour leadership. Most commentators cannot understand the prolonged goodbye from Tony Blair and certainly, viewed from this side of the Atlantic, his continuation in office seems both pointless and an exercise in selfishness of historic proportions. We had a series of extremely useful (and frank) meetings ranging from Karl Rove at the White House to the State Department, some media interviews and a reception at the British Embassy for British companies involved in Homeland Security and Public Safety Equipment. It is always reassuring, and sometimes surprising, to see how many British businesses are at the global cutting edge in areas such as security. What a pity we don’t here more of this from our own media!
An issue which keeps cropping up with British defence and security firms is the lack of skills base in the UK and the constant threat that some of our most innovative companies will end up relocating to the US. It is an issue we will get a chance to explore tomorrow at a large exhibition our businesses are hosting.
We have been discussing widely today the view, posted yesterday, that there is a good deal of room to seek greater cooperation in procurement projects with America. There is one drawback, however, and that is the widely held view that Britain likes to play Atlanticist in the States and European in Europe. While it is easy for us to dismiss this as par for the course for New Labour’s obsession with being “all things to all men” we will have to work hard to regain lost trust. This we found a little surprising as the British media would have us believe that Tony Blair is only marginally short of sainthood here. Simply stating that duplicity is in the DNA of New Labour will not be enough. We will have to come forward with detailed and credible proposals if we are to convince our American counterparts that we are genuinely committed to the Special Relationship as our primary alliance.
Finally, the second piece of news and a real result for Conservative Home. The piece that was posted last night was quoted to us by a senior Homeland Security official today. Congratulations Tim- you have gone global!