Britain and Cuba results published
Campaign News | Monday, 26 April 2010
92% of candidates want improved relations with Cuba
The Britain and Cuba campaign reveals range of views on Cuba
Harriet Harman, Nick Clegg and William Hague are amongst the hundreds of candidates setting out their policies on Cuba in response to the Britain and Cuba campaign. The results published today show 92% of candidates want improved relations with Cuba
In the build up to the General Election the Cuba Solidarity Campaign undertook a massive nationwide lobbying campaign via the web site www.britainandcuba.org
Well over 2000 candidates have been contacted by individuals in each constituency asking them one direct question
‘If elected as an MP would you support better relations between the UK and Cuba?'
Over 700 candidates have responded and a look through their answers makes for fascinating reading. While the question itself is straight forward, it is clear that the different parties have very different approaches to our relations with Cuba.
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg states his support for better relations while at the same time raises the question of human rights in Cuba. He also sets conditions on improving UK relations with the island when he states
'we believe the approach of constructive engagement practiced by the EU is far more effective in tackling these issues than the policy of isolation used by the US'
Interestingly he suggests that the Lib Dems would lobby the United States to take a better position.
'the UK should use its influence in Washington to persuade the US to ally itself to the European Common Position'
His deputy, Vince Cable is much clearer stating
'I agree with you that the UK has much to gain from better relations with Cuba and the Liberal democrats believe that continuing sanctions against Cuba should be brought to an end.'
The Labour Party is somewhat confused in its Cuba policy with most candidates clearly expressing their opposition to the blockade and support for better relations. However while in office the Labour Government did little to improve things; for example refusing to send a high level ministerial delegation to Havana unlike most of its European partners, and overseeing a paltry level of trade with the island.
Former Labour Minister Charles Clarke takes the positive view
'I strongly support better relations between the UK and Cuba, and have worked to that end - for example by actively encouraging Foreign Office Ministers to visit and encouraging the UK to oppose the US blockade. I am influenced by the fact that I lived and worked in Cuba in 1977/8, when I was the UK delegate to the Preparatory Committee for the 1978 World Youth Festival, and then visited subsequently'.
Diane Abbott gives one of the most unequivocal messages
'I believe that the U.S. blockade of Cuba is both pointless, vindictive and is a result of right wing Cuban elements present in Miami. President Obama has recently spoken of improving relations with Cuba and these are words I find very encouraging indeed. I think the UK should take its own line on Cuba and start to build better economic, sporting and cultural links with the country as soon as possible.'
While Labour deputy leader, Harriet Harman takes the classic politician’s approach and dodges the central issue
'Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention. I understand your concerns and have conveyed them to my Cabinet colleagues. I have also written to Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead, Minister of State for Central America raising the point you have made.'
In the main the Conservatives are positive about better relations. They make the generalised comments about democracy, openness and human rights, but seem to be pragmatic in their willingness to engage with Cuba on these questions rather than pursue a policy of interference.
William Hague sets out the Tory position
'Thank you for your letter about UK relations with Cuba. I visited Cuba last year in my capacity as shadow Foreign Secretary and would like to see better relations between Cuba and the outside world, as well as an improved human rights situation in the country and a transition to democracy in Cuba so that its citizens can enjoy the prosperity and liberty found in so many of its neighbouring countries.'
One can only guess at the other countries that William is referring to, the Bahamas perhaps rather than Cuba's closest neighbour Haiti !
The main nationalist parties are overwhelmingly positive
'I support better relations between the UK and Cuba as I see the current position as an anachronism remaining from Cold War policy. It has more to do with US domestic politics than anything else and its important that the UK Parliament does it's best to redress the situation'
Penri James, Plaid Candidate for Ceredigion
'I believe that the blockade is now in its 50th year and is a tangible reminder of that time in history when the cold war was at its height.'
John Mullen, SNP Candidate for Central Ayrshire
The Green Party has a very clear and consistently positive approach.
Leader Caroline Lucas writes
'The fifty year US blockade on Cuba has caused considerable hardship to the Cuban people, if elected I would work to improve relations between Cuba and the UK. Despite Obama's election the USA government have continued with policies of repression rather than dialogue and there is a constant danger that US policies which are hostile to Cuba will influence the approach of the UK government'
Perhaps though the final word should go to Labour candidate Stella Creasy, one of the many candidates who recognised the effort of friends of Cuba in this important campaign
'You will also be pleased to know several other Walthamstow residents have also raised this with me showing the grassroots support for action on this point. I have no doubt that this is replicated across the country as I know how hard the CSC has worked to lobby and raise awareness as to value of engagement with Cuba for the UK.'
Thank you to Stella and all the candidates who have responded so far. And thanks to all of you who have take the action.
The Britain and Cuba campaign does not end here. We will be publishing a full report of the findings and sending copies to every member of the new parliament. We will be organising meetings up and down the country with MPs, Trade Unions and the public all aiming to get the British Government to build a better and more respectful relationship with Cuba. We need your help with this. We need financial assistance as well as your involvement. If you can make a donation please do so. If you are not already a member of Cuba Solidarity Campaign then do please join. That is by far the best way of helping Cuba.
Most importantly the Britain and Cuba campaign has given us the opportunity to raise the issue of Cuba with thousands of candidates, many of whom will be part of the new parliament. These MPs will be key to ensuring that Britain takes a positive and pragmatic view to our future relations with Havana. They will need to ensure that Britain holds an independent policy from Washington, while pushing our Cuba relationship forward with mutual respect and understanding.
At a time when Cuba is coming under a sustained media assault directed and coordinated from Miami it is perhaps reassuring to see these overwhelmingly positive responses to the campaign. However it is also clear that Cuba will continue to be vilified and attacked by those opposed to any accommodation with Cuba's socialist system. Friends of Cuba will need to do all we can in the defence of Cuba's sovereignty against interference and outside aggression.
You can contact CSC anytime on 0208 800 0155 or at