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Thursday, 31 January, 2002, 20:26 GMT
Tories attack Blair's world ambition
Tony and Cherie Blair in India earlier this year
The Tories accuse Blair of media grandstanding
Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith has launched a fierce attack on Tony Blair's "utopian" foreign policy, accusing the prime minister of "media grandstanding".

The prime minister saw no limits to what Britain could do as part of an "all-embracing global coalition of the righteous", the Tory leader said in a foreign policy speech on Thursday.

This idea that somehow we isolate ourselves from the rest of the world ... is so wrong and misguided

Tony Blair

The comments were rejected by Mr Blair as he accused the Tories of isolationism, a charge echoed by the Liberal Democrats.

Mr Duncan Smith said he would support Mr Blair "whenever national interest demands" and argued that mobilising national pride was the best way of winning just wars.

His comments follow Tony Blair's speech in India about Britain being a "force for good" for both itself and the wider world.

And in the immediate aftermath of the US terror attacks, Mr Blair talked of "reordering the world around us" while it was still in flux.

'Misguided' approach

In his speech to the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Mr Duncan Smith argued Conservatives were realists who did not see the world as a utopia.

"Attempts to create new world orders are doomed because they first have to entail the creation of new world citizens," he said.

Iain Duncan Smith
Tory leader says national interest must be foremost
The Tory leader, who has criticised the prime minister for ignoring domestic issues because of the international agenda, called Mr Blair's foreign policy "profoundly misguided".

On Thursday he said: "The prime minister seems to believe that there are no limits to what Britain, acting as part of an all-embracing global coalition of the righteous, can and should do to make the world a better place."

'Designer diplomacy'

Trying to pursue ambitious foreign policy that outstrips a country's resources but does not advance its interests, and puts a nation's safety and standing at risk, Mr Duncan Smith argued.

"And there is worse. An unfocused approach to foreign policy leads to, and is often devised in pursuit of, media grandstanding."

Mr Duncan Smith is dismissive of what he brands "designer diplomacy" and its lack of realism.

President George Bush
US merits superpower status, says Duncan Smith
He voiced Conservative belief that successful foreign policy "preserves and promotes the national interest. Everything else flows from that".

The Tory leader stressed the war against terror was "our war" just as it was America's because of the impact 11 September had on vital British interests.

He acknowledged the strong currents of globalism and internationalism.

The decisive strike against international terror was, however, "achieved by mobilising national loyalty, national pride and national willingness for sacrifice", he continued.

'Force for good'

"That remains the most reliable way of ensuring that grave wrongs are punished and that just wars are won."

Tony Blair said he was "astonished" by the comments, especially as they came when Afghan leader Hamid Karzai was in the UK.

The events of 11 September and Britain's role since showed how international policy was interlinked with domestic concerns, such as drugs, said the prime minister.

"This idea that somehow we isolate ourselves from the rest of the world, we draw in upon ourselves, that Britain becomes a sort of reclusive figure trying to shield ourselves from what happens on the international stage - that is so wrong and misguided."

Mr Blair mapped out his vision of modern foreign policy during his trip to south Asia earlier this month.

"We are not a super power, but we can act as a pivotal partner, acting with others to make sense of this global interdependence and make it a force for good, for our own nation and the wider world," he said.

Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell argued Tory foreign policy amounted to being "the provisional wing of the Republican right in the US".

"A Tory government would increasingly isolate Britain and remain locked in a quasi-imperial past," said Mr Campbell.

The BBC's John Pienaar
"Duncan Smith's style of opposition has grown more aggressive"
Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith
"The problem is simple and fundamental"
Labour's Donald Anderson MP
"I find enormous positive response to the role that the Prime Minister is playing"
See also:

05 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Blair 'ignoring domestic disorder'
05 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Blair says Britain is 'force for good'
06 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Blair handles diplomacy hazards
30 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Tory leader meets US president
02 Oct 01 | Labour
Blair's global vision
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