Shadow foreign secretary William Hague will make a speech to the Royal Commonwealth Society tonight in which he will accuse Labour of having relinquished its commitment to the Commonwealth.

Furthermore, he will promise that, if elected at the next general election, a Conservative government would embrace the Commonwealth as an important foreign policy tool, with the 53-state organisation playing a vital role in 21st Century diplomacy.

He will pour scorn on Tony Blair’s promise in 1997 that he would not allow the Commonwealth to "fade into nostalgia":

"Despite these intentions, we have seen a complete failure by the Government to deliver on these promises over the last decade; instead
the Government’s term in office has been characterised by a neglectful
ambivalence. Relinquishing our Commonwealth commitments is
incredibly short-sighted and ultimately detrimental to the prosperity
and sphere of influence of our country."

Looking ahead to what the Conservatives would do in office, he will say:

"We should be excited and determined about what the nations of the Commonwealth can do together. Amidst the shifting global landscape, the Commonwealth can act as a bridge across divides of religion, ethnicity, culture and wealth, to the benefit of common humanity. When the modern Commonwealth was born sixty years ago with the inclusion of a newly independent India, the final Communiqué from the Commonwealth Prime Ministers meeting stated that the association had demonstrated the ability to ‘strengthen its unity of purpose while adapting its organisation and procedures to changing circumstances’.

"It should draw upon this experience and continue to evolve in the full assurance that it has an important role to play in the twenty-first century. It should also have complete confidence that it will have the unwavering support of a future Conservative government for it will be an important instrument in our foreign policy tool box. We will adopt a more assertive, energetic and enthusiastic attitude towards the Commonwealth since there is vast potential to be unlocked and Britain must, along with our friends and allies, be at the forefront of these efforts.”

One are in which he is especially keen for the Commonwealth to play a role is as a "conduit for certain reform initiatives in the Arab world", noting that Commonwealth countries contain approximately 500 million Muslims.

Jonathan Isaby

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