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Peterborough – he studied at King’s School – helps shape new foreign secretary David Lammy’s thoughts

To help communities like Peterborough ‘Labour’s foreign policy must adapt’

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Britain’s new foreign secretary David Lammy has previously spoken of his schooldays in Peterborough and how return visits had made him aware that to help communities like Peterborough, Labour’s foreign policy must adapt. Mr Lammy, appointed this afternoon after having been shadow foreign minister since 2021, takes over from Lord Cameron.

The MP is a former Kings School student and chorister and visited Peterborough earlier this year to help Labour’s Parliamentary candidate Andrew Pakes, who became MP for the city earlier today.

Mr Lammy, in a Chatham House speech last year and reported at the time by CambsNews, spoke of his childhood at the Peterborough school and how the city has been let down, like others, by “a failure of the Conservative government”.

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“Most of you know me as the MP for Tottenham in north London,” he said in his Chatham House speech.

“But it is less known that I spent much of my childhood in Peterborough studying at a state boarding school.

“It is easy to see the impact of global trends in Tottenham.

“But the impact of the world on Peterborough has been just as transformative.”

He recalled returning to Peterborough in recent years to have lunch with Clive and Cathy, the parents of his best friend from school.

“Over tea in their bungalow, they told me how at home they felt in Peterborough when they were young,” he said.

David Lammy said that to help communities like Peterborough, Labour’s foreign policy must adapt.

“Now, they feel powerless as their grandchildren struggle to find decent jobs. The industrial workplaces of the past not yet replaced by the green jobs of the future.

“They feel like their community has been eroded as neighbouring families moved out.

“And they tell me they feel too insecure on their street to walk home at night. As the tentacles of international criminal gangs have reached into their neighbourhood.”

Mr Lammy said: “This is not just down to domestic policy failures in policing, housing, and education.

“But a failure of the Conservative government to grasp the impacts of foreign policy, globalisation, and economic change on all our communities. Leaving not only families, but us as a nation feeling lost – and disconnected.”

He said that to help communities like Peterborough, Labour’s foreign policy must adapt.

“And meet these three tectonic shifts fragmenting the world with three unifying principles,” he said.

“The first is that British foreign policy must seek to take back control.

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“The Brexiteers were right about that. But they were fundamentally wrong to think it means going it alone. In the modern world, we maximise our influence by reconnecting Britain with our allies and partners.

“The second is that our foreign policy must put pragmatism over ideology. Making decisions based on what will advance the British public’s security and prosperity. Not the ideological purity of the ERG.

Dean of Peterborough Cathedral, the Very Revd Chris Dalliston, with David Lammy, Shadow Foreign Secretary, and Peterborough prospective Parliamentary candidate Andrew Pakes

Dean of Peterborough Cathedral, the Very Revd Chris Dalliston, with David Lammy and Andrew Pakes

“And the third is that our foreign policy choices must be made for the many, not the few. Putting the consumer, before the fossil fuel company. The small business owner, before the hedge fund manager.

“The NHS patient, before the tax exile.”

Mr Lammy said: “The test that lies behind each of these principles is simple.

“Will our choices help hard-working families in a more dangerous world where the borders between foreign and domestic policy are breaking down?

“The lack of purpose in Britain’s foreign policy stems from both bad choices and institutional dysfunction.

“We have left the EU but not yet found a new, settled, and confident place in Europe. Our country’s reputation for the rule of law has been badly damaged. Our leadership in development has been squandered. The foundations of our defences have been weakened.

“Our soft power has been corroded and our climate leadership forsaken.

“It is, I am afraid to say, a dismal record. I take no pleasure from saying that. We all have a stake in the success of our country.

“And a future Labour government will inherit the consequences of these choices. It will fall to us to rebuild the foundations of our influence in the world.”

Mr Lammy said: “My vision is of a ‘Britain Reconnected’. Secure at home and strong abroad.

“A confident country, outside of the EU but a leader in Europe once again. A reliable partner, a dependable ally, and a good neighbour. NATO’s leading European power. A development superpower once more. At the vanguard of climate action. Driving forward the industries of the future for Britain. A diplomatic entrepreneur.

“And a country that keeps its word.”

During a more recent visit to Peterborough, he visited his old school and later met with the Dean of Peterborough Cathedral, the Very Revd Chris Dalliston.

Fact file: Chatham House is an independent policy institute and a trusted forum for debate and dialogue. Its research and ideas ‘help people understand our changing world’.

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