Last night Andrew took part in a debate on Global Britain. The text from his speech is here -
We debate here today at a time when the values we stand for as a country, when the values all liberal democracies of the world, seem more under threat than at any time in living memory.
Democracy, freedom, the rule of law, free trade. The values that made this country great, that shaped the western world. That saw, in the shadow of war and devastation, through Bretton Woods, the United Nations, NATO, the EU; the creation of an international rules based order that would, for more than half a century, guide the peaceful nations of the world towards further cooperation and away from barbarous despotism and dangerous isolationism.
For more than half a century, it was assumed, it was taken as a given, that where trade led, democracy would follow. It was thought, as more peoples were exposed to the glories of the west, the miracles of capitalism, the desire to throw off autocracy and embrace liberty and freedom would grow. And where people showed that desire, the great defenders of freedom- the United States, Britain, would support them in that effort.
It was in 1999 that Tony Blair said in Chicago that, “In the end values and interests merge. If we can establish and spread the values of liberty, the rule of law, human rights and an open society then that is in our national interests too. The spread of our values makes us safer.”
Still, today, I passionately believe that this is true.
It was an uncontroversial statement at the time. But 22 years later, much has changed.
A Western World, once confident, convinced of the invincible powers of capitalism and democracy is shaken by over two decades of terrorism, ill-managed overseas conflicts, a devastating financial crisis, the European migrant crisis and a lurch towards populism. And now, economies ravaged by Covid 19.
And last week, we saw the bastion of American democracy- the Capitol, the literal shining city on the hill, over-run by a mob demanding the results of a free and fair election be overturned because their leader refused to accept the results. Actions we would associate normally with a tin pot dictator, not the leader for the free world.
And yet, we across the west, we in Britain, cannot wallow in despair. We cannot afford to retreat into ourselves. Because in front of us is the greatest challenge since we rebuilt our world after the second world war. The need us to step up. To take on the democracy deniers. To re-establish the rules based order. To champion free trade.
The challenge is great. We see China- now accounting for 18% of global GDP- the largest trading partner of 64 countries- including Germany, growing- a growth barely dented by the coronavirus pandemic forcibly sterilising women and imprisoning Uighurs in concentration camps, threatening the Indian border, acting with increasing aggression and impunity on the South China Sea.
We see Russia, willing to commit murder on foreign soil, our soil, willing to invade an independent sovereign country and claim part of it as its own- without threat of recrimination from the west.
Across Africa, a continent that barely 30 years ago looked on the cusp of a wave of democratisation, we see presidential term limits weakened or sidestepped, dictators growing in confidence, civil war in ten nations.
We already do much. Britain is already a global power. A world leader on foreign aid spending. The second highest defence spender NATO with that set to increase. A permanent member of the UN Security Council. A member of the Commonwealth. A country that has shown it respects and enacts the results of democratic referendums and elections.
We are a believer in trade, free trade between free nations – because it enriches our own people and spurs economic growth and prosperity around the globe. That is why we have signed 63 trade deals since leaving the EU, worth over £885bn.
We are in the leading nations on earth in fighting climate change. Over the past decade, the UK has cut carbon emissions by more than any similar developed country and was the first major economy to legislate for net zero emissions by 2050.
But this year, we have the opportunity to go even further.
At this critical juncture for the west- at this epoch defining moment when we, the liberal democracies, can choose to watch as those who care not for liberty, freedom of speech or assembly over-turn the rules based international order or when we can stand up for the values of the enlightenment, for democracy, for globalisation; the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has been handed the opportunity to lead. To guide the world forward into the next decade of the 21st Century- to shape how our world will look as we recover not just from covid, but from two decades when the western world has been under attack as never before.
With out presidency of COP 26, hosted here Scotland this year. With our Presidency of the G7 coming at this most critical and crucial of years- we have the opportunity to be bold. To demonstrate the good that we can achieve on the world stage. To signal to the world that although beaten, the values we hold dear are enduring and that, working together, with confidence in who we are and what we stand for we can take action to combat the greatest threats to our planet and our people.
Never before now, in this dark hour, should we take as much inspiration from the words of John F Kennedy on his inauguration.
“The trumpet summons us again--not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need--not as a call to battle, though embattled we are-- but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation"--a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.”
A Global Britain, with Scotland at its heart, will lead the fight in this struggle. And we will win.