Picture 5 The Shadow Deputy Leader of the Lords, Lord Howell of Guildford, gave a pretty robust yet dispiriting assessment of the state of the UK as the Upper House debated the Queen's Speech yesterday:

A robust foreign policy should both define and unite us, yet,
instead, with the most optimistic view, one is left with a dispiriting
picture. At a time when we should be forging new alliances with new
sources of power and influence that will affect our destiny intimately;
at a time when we should be vigorously promoting new and more flexible
structures regionally for the EU, instead of talking of more
centralisation; at a time when we should be building up the
Commonwealth as the ideal soft power network of the future; at a time
when we should be massively strengthening and modernising our security
forces to meet asymmetric threats; at a time when we should be
redirecting our development and aid policies, and thinking clearly
about whether aid really leads to development in all cases-which it
does not; at a time when we should be reconstructing our overseas
ministries to get a better resource balance and upgrading our whole
diplomatic resources-at this time, we are doing none of those things.

Above all, these
ambiguities in our world stance divide and confuse us here at home, as
both the Afghan and, I am afraid, the Iraqi involvement have divided
us, adding to the multicultural mayhem and planting of deep doubt
within our society. With our staggering public debt and enormous budget
deficit, with
the prospect of head-on collision with international bond markets
looming and with our lost purpose, we are beginning to look like-and
outside commentators are beginning to describe us as-a failed nation.

The global
context has changed. Within it we need a new foreign policy direction
based on a deep and intelligent analysis of the world conditions. We
need new government machinery and a new Government to operate it
successfully and with confidence and vigour. Our amazing country, built
on its amazing and dazzling past, and still full of talent and
vitality, deserves nothing less.

Read his full speech here.

Jonathan Isaby