Simon Heffer in today's Telegraph has a splendid rant about the woebegone figure of Margaret Beckett- our hapless Foreign Secretary. It is rare that I agree with him, but his call for her immediate resignation is something I can totally agree with. She is, quite simply, not up to the job.
Her utter lack of interest in International Affairs is obvious, but then as "Yo Blair" is his own foreign minister, there is not too much for her to do. Interesting to see the British Prime Minister on such a transparent job hunt in the United States- interesting and frankly embarrassing.
Nevertheless the Post-Blair era will be upon us soon- and the question that will loom larger in that era is "Can the UK ever have a foreign policy that is independent of the United States?".
After all, our so-called "independent nuclear deterrent" is dependent on servicing carried out in Savannah, Georgia. Our signals intelligence system, GCHQ, is essentially transparent to the US agencies, especially the NSA. The United States maintains large bases across the UK- notably at Mildenhall and Lakenheath in Suffolk that are in fact, though not in law, sovereign base areas. Our Military capability is dependent on close cooperation with the US military. British arms and aerospace companies are reliant on contracts with the US military. All of this is in addition to the large scale British investments in the United States (BP, buying Amoco, for example).
Of course this is all very well, since most of us are quite happy about our close alliance with the USA and our membership of NATO. However, as the "Yo Blair" stuff has shown- we are patronised and ignored both by the US and everyone else. The fact is that in such areas as Israel, the US and Britain have quite different approaches. Many regard the position of the Israeli government in the current crisis as irrational. However, as the result of our essentially craven position vis a vis the US, we have not made any official public criticism. As Blair makes the arrangements to leave office and spend more time with his lecture notes, his legacy of foreign policy positions that are always totally aligned with Washington should now be questioned and, if necessary, the assumptions that have been underlying them should be challenged.
It would be nice to have an independent British foreign policy again- and better still to have a competent Foreign Secretary.