The Guardian group of newspapers is becoming a favourite launchpad for Project Cameron’s policy makeovers. Margaret Thatcher’s apartheid policy was repudiated in last weekend’s Observer. The new hug-a-teacher approach to education was trailed exclusively in yesterday’s Guardian and today’s Guardian has an article from the Tory leader about Britain’s relationship with India. In the article, Mr Cameron appears to imply that Britain shouldn’t just have a special relationship with India (something which ConservativeHome enthusiastically supports) but that Britain’s relationship with India should enjoy "the highest priority".
"Special relationship" is, of course, a heavily-loaded political term – associated as it is with Britain’s historically close relationship with America. Talk of a new ‘special relationship’ was always open to being read as a downgrading of the US-UK link. Was that a deliberate tactic by the Cameron spin team? A movement away from America is certainly how The Guardian’s Will Woodward is interpreting the Tory leader’s words:
"British politicians need to curb their obsession with the US and Europe and look east to safeguard Britain’s interests, David Cameron says today."
The Guardian’s homepage chooses ‘David Cameron: Forget America let’s look to India’ as its headline. All predictable and unnecessary. As important as India is to Britain’s foreign and economic future – nothing should be done to undermine the transatlantic relationship. America remains a more important economic and security ally for Britain. The Tories should never pander to the anti-Americanism of Guardian readers.
Mr Cameron uses his article to call for India-UK cooperation on fighting terrorism, global trade and protecting the environment. India – with its close relationship with the Bush administration – has already appeared to have rejected David Cameron’s Kyoto environmentalism in favour of Washington’s tech-based approach. More promising is David Cameron’s visionary suggestion – that he is billed to make later tonight – that there should be a free trade agreement between India and the UK if global trade talks fail.
This visit to India – hot-on-the-heels of George Osborne’s Japan trip – and set alongside this week’s Hague-Fox trip to China are encouraging indications of the party leadership’s awareness that it needs to establish its foreign policy credentials. Time is on David Cameron’s side in this mission and contacts now being made in China, India and Japan could serve UK interests for years to come. In a sign of the international recognition of David Cameron, ‘Team Cameron’ is being met by the most senior representatives of the governments being visited. All of this is to be warmly welcomed.
Related links: Peter Luff MP on YourPlatform (where, yesterday, he raised the idea of India being another special relationship for Britain); David Cameron’s latest India blog with its video of dancing girls and diggers; and George Osborne’s Diary of his Eastern trip (plus his article in The Times on opportunities for UK-India trade).