UK foreign policy and Trump's US UK foreign policy and Trump's US. Photo: flickr, Alisdaire Hickson

As the Lords international relations select committee attacks May’s foreign policy, there is clearly far reaching opposition to her approach, writes Chris Nineham 

After May’s disastrous TV performance on the Iraq War, those who want this election to bring real change in foreign policy just got another boost. Government foreign policy has been attacked from an unexpected quarter, the Lords international relations select committee. 

The committee’s damning report lists a series of foreign policy blunders, muddles and errors, mainly committed by Boris Johnson. It argues that Britain’s policy on Syria is in ‘confusion and disarray’, that relying on Saudi assurances about how UK arms are being used in Yemen was inadequate and that the government needs a complete review of its relationship with ‘repressive regimes in the Gulf’.

But the report goes much further and calls into question the special relationship with the Trump administration. Showing exasperation, it says that ‘we really have to think for ourselves’ given ‘the mercurial and unpredictable nature of policy making by President Trump’. America, it judges, has become ‘the wild card’. 

To many people watching geopolitics with growing alarm over the last few months these kind of judgements will appear self-evident. But the fact they have been issued publicly by a committee which includes former Tory shadow minister Lord Howell, former Labour defence secretary Lord Reid and Lord Hannay who was UK ambassador to the UN, is highly significant. 

It is very unusual for such figures to throw doubt on the special relationship. It shows that Trump’s aggressiveness and Theresa May’s fawning to his administration are causing real stresses in the British ruling class. Clearly significant voices in the establishment believe that Trump’s foreign policy positions are based on fantasies.

They are breaking a further taboo by calling for independent foreign policy settings. The committee urges ‘a new UK Middle East strategy and set of policies that reflect the new reality’. This they say should include dropping regime change in Syria and ease banking restrictions on Iran, even if the US didn’t follow suit. 

No doubt such advice will be ignored by the current regime. But it shows that far from being stable and secure, Theresa May’s government is viewed as wayward and irresponsible even by old hands. The report should be taken up and used by Jeremy Corbyn and his team as proof that even insiders know that in the real world there needs be a sharp change in British foreign policy. 

Establishment splits are always good for campaigners. The report should give confidence to every anti-war activist that support for Donald Trump is becoming more and more discredited. 

Chris Nineham

Chris Nineham is a founder member of Stop the War and Counterfire, speaking regularly around the country on behalf of both. He is author of The People Versus Tony Blair and Capitalism and Class Consciousness: the ideas of Georg Lukacs.