This piece was originally published on the now defunct Labour Vision site.
By Will Barber Taylor
The image of the British Prime Minister is not a popular one. Within the confines of our island nation, the Prime Minister has been viewed by many people for the past seven years at least as an ineffective and even laughable figure. Seen as either a figure attached to America or one trying to find a place in Europe, Britain and its’ leader have been seen not as major world players. Since the end of the Second World War, Britain has seemed at a loss to exactly reclaim its place in the world. With the loss of the Empire came the loss of status – not helped by the initial, though necessary, period of retreat from most major world events under the Attlee regime. Whilst Britain’s world status has been revived during pivotal moments – such as the cultural revolution of the 1960s and the greedy 80s, we now seem to be in another slump.
Our government, led by one of the most awkward political leaders since the late Ted Heath, is seen as a laughing stock – only outdone by our American cousin’s unfortunate Baby President. Given that the government – and the Prime Minister in particular – are our representatives abroad this is particularly disheartening. They project the image of what Britain is and what it stands for to a global audience. As such Labour should aim to change how we are viewed around the world once in office. The office of the Prime Minister should not be one of an unliked leader desperately clinging on to power; we should have a Prime Minister who is dynamic, representative and can change Britain for the better. The role of the Prime Minister on the world stage should mirror that of other leaders who are transforming their nation – Macron in France and Trudeau in Canada being two examples. Labour needs to ensure that a prospective Labour Prime Minister is not seen as restrained, distant for the public. As Bill Clinton set out to do in 1992, Labour has to renew the role of the Prime Minister and make it one to be respected. To do this it must also redefine the image of Britain.
Labour’s image of Britain is currently haphazard to say the least. British politics seems to have reverted to a pre-war view – a distinction between left and right that fails to attempt to explain Britain’s place in the world, but rather fight over the issues that can be dealt with more succinctly on a local party level. To tackle these, the next Labour Prime Minister has to think about the world and how Britain can both utilise it and help improve it.
The next Labour government has to ensure, post Brexit, that Britain remains an international centre of excellence – British schools, British universities, British colleges can and must but at the centre of Britain’s image of innovative education. Steps must be put forward into industry. Britain is no longer the technological hub of the world and why? A presumption that China and America should do everything for us? Investment must be made in modern, sophisticated technology that can show Britain is at the forefront of the tech revolution. This can engender growth and investment in the future of Britain’s children and ensure jobs for the unemployed, either forced into menial jobs by the current Conservative government or forced down avenues they do not want to go.
Yet not only this. The shadow of Iraq and Syria should not mean that Britain should shrink from its duty of protecting other nations in plight – we cannot sit back and let America or Russia dictate world events without any influence. This plays again into how Labour can win – Labour must ensure that the role of the Prime Minister is seen as one of a dynamic, engaging world politician that there is. We have to show that Britain isn’t afraid to stand up to stronger world powers if it has to.