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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 September 2007, 14:29 GMT 15:29 UK
Miliband moves on from Blair
Analysis
By Nick Assinder
Political correspondent, BBC News website

Nothing damaged Tony Blair or split the government and UK more than the former prime minister's foreign policy and, specifically, the war on Iraq.

David Miliband
Mr Miliband sought to move on from Blair era
Now, following a keynote conference speech from Foreign Secretary David Miliband, nothing has marked a more symbolic shift away from the Blair years.

In a short but significant address, Mr Miliband repeatedly spoke of the need to "move on" from Mr Blair's approach, to learn the lessons and to implement a "second wave" of foreign policy.

He said a decade of "good intentions" and trying to extend western values of freedom and democracy to other countries had led many in the Muslim world to believe "we're seeking not to empower them but to dominate them"

"The lesson is that it's not good enough to have good intentions," he said.

He extended his message to the crisis in Iraq, again insisting that "whatever the rights and wrongs" of the war it was now time to focus on the future - and move on.

Navel gazing

He even referred directly to Tony Blair's often quoted intention of offering a bridge between Europe and America.

"Both Europe and America are less popular now than ten years ago. It's not enough to talk about a bridge," he said.

Turning to demands for a referendum on the new EU treaty, he said Britain and Europe should not get bogged down in institutional navel gazing when what was needed was for the EU to "look out" to face global threats.

The lesson is that it's not good enough to have good intentions
David Miliband
UK foreign secretary

And he warned unions and those in Labour demanding a vote that Europe had divided the Tories for 15 years and should not be allowed to divide Labour now.

Those last remarks may go some way to calming the row over the EU treaty, now being led by the Sun newspaper.

But it is the overriding message that it is now time to put the era of Blairite foreign policy behind them that will make the greatest impact.

It was exactly what many delegates at the conference had wanted to hear.

Lasting legacy

The war on Iraq and Tony Blair's closeness to President Bush has long been one of the greatest sources of anger and resentment amongst Labour members and supporters.

Many still believe it will overshadow any of his achievements during a decade in power and provide his only lasting legacy.

And, more than anything, they wanted to see a recognition of the trauma it caused.

He did little to spell out just how this second wave of foreign policy would be pursued
Nick Assinder

No one expected an apology or even an admission that the decision to go to war or stand so closely beside the President was wrong - particularly from ministers who voted for the invasion. And they did not get that.

But many at this gathering wanted to see signs that things would be different in future and that lessons had been learnt.

Gordon Brown has gone some way down that route by declaring any future decisions to go to war would have to go before parliament.

But Mr Miliband has now gone further in an attempt to heal the internal divisions and draw a line under the past.

He still emphasised the importance of the relationship between the UK and the US and offered no new policy towards Iraq or Afghanistan.

And he did little to spell out just how this second wave of foreign policy would be pursued. That will only become clear over coming months and years as the policy is put into practice.

But for those who want to see this conference as offering a symbolic break with the past, this speech provided it. Just how real it is remains to be seen.




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