In 2008, Klaus Dodds and I published an article entitled ‘Thinking Ahead: David Cameron, the Henry Jackson Society and British Neo-conservatism‘ in the British Journal of Politics and International Relations (requires subscription, or available here). We wrote the piece in 2007, around the time that Gordon Brown became prime minister, when Cameron was the relatively new leader of the Conservative Party. Here’s the abstract:
The Conservative party under David Cameron’s leadership has embarked on a series of foreign policy initiatives which appear to revise the political right’s traditional reluctance to interfere in third-party conflicts with no obvious British interest. This article looks at whether this shift is substantial through an examination of Cameron’s and William Hague’s foreign policy pronouncements. Its particular focus is to discuss whether the Henry Jackson Society, a group of academics, parliamentarians and journalists, is exercising any influence over Conservative party foreign policy discussion. Finally, we consider how critics including individuals associated with the Henry Jackson Society have evaluated Cameron’s and Hague’s tentative interventionist convictions. It is suggested that the notion that idealism in foreign policy has to be conditioned by realism is actually a reworking of Blair’s foreign policy, especially when applied to overseas intervention.
The reason I highlight this piece now is that one of the key voices in the early days of the Henry Jackson Society was Michael Gove, then a relatively new MP and advisor to Cameron, and now one of the candidates for Conservative party leader and prime minister. (Gisela Stuart, one of the key Labour voices for the ‘Leave’ campaign, was also a signatory of their founding statement of principles). Gove got quite a lot of attention in our article, not just because of his role in the society, but also because of his book Celsius 7/7, which looked at the 2005 London bombs and wider issues in the war on terror. Gove’s cabinet experience has been in Education and Justice (though he has some strange ideas about the nouns those ministries are concerned with). His foreign policy views have, of late, been largely confined to Europe. But it is worth reconsidering the kind of views he has on wider issues.