So good to hear Ed Balls talk about this, this morning. Interesting to hear to that a Harvard/Kings paper on this subject is being launched next Tuesday.
He talked about the government calling it a "new era for global Britain" but that nobody knows what that actually means. He suggested it is a chance to move away from the polarisation of the last few years.
We are still a big economy, chairing the COP talks this year, and we do have some leverage in the world. On the other hand, some people focus on the idea that we are "finally liberated" (whatever that means), returning to our commonwealth roots as a global power striding the world stage.
He said that having talked to leaders around the world they agreed that we had some leverage but that it cannot be hubristic and arrogant, it's got to be about brokering, it's got to be humble, it's got to be about bringing people together if the UK is to have any influence worldwide and you cannot have a different message to the world and your domestic audience.
He added that, if the government goes round telling people that we are now Britain restored - imperial Britain, the rest of the world is going to laugh at that; it's just not credible,
He felt that the research for the paper had begged the question - can we be humble about this and not be adversarial. There has to be a change in tone.
He used the vaccine procurement and roll out as an example where we should not be saying "we're different" and "aren't we brilliant we beat the Europeans" we should be using our leverage and influence to solve a world problem. He commented that the sounds coming out of Downing Street and some people at the beginning of the pandemic, on public health, were to the effect that "we don't need to listen to the rest of the world, we're different". Masks, the closing down big gatherings might be what they did elsewhere but it wasn't what we needed to do here in Britain. He suggested that a year ago there was an arrogance, a "Britain only" mentality and that if we are going to be effective as global Britain it's got to be about listening and learning and brokering. It can't be adversarial, we need some humility which will be a challenge for Boris Johnson. However, if he pulls that off it will start to make Global Britain a reality.
He also felt that Keir Starmer needs to own "Global Britain" for the future and needs to say to those people who say, "it's all a disaster, we should go back into the European Union", that will not work. He suggested he cannot let Boris Johnson have "Britain" or "Global". He needs to say there is a vision of Global Britain which is outward-looking, which is co-operative, which is progressive, which is about building alliances to do good in the world. He needs to show the difference from the Boris Johnson vision and that also means domestically a different vision for how we make sure that every region and nation of the UK benefit from rising prosperity and that we really deliver on the "levelling up" which Brexiteers have promised.
Ed Balls felt that if Keir Starmer can own Labour's Global Britain and that is the election debate in a few years time he has a chance of winning. If he doesn't engage in "what is Global Britain" if he hands a post-Brexit Global view or a Britain First Global view over to the Conservatives that won't work.
You can listen to the interview towards the end of the Today programme. www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000s9qm