Britain’s special relationship with the US was forged on the battlefields of Europe. At this year’s Remembrance Sunday, we remembered how we came together, not just as two nations with shared interests, but as friends, brothers and sisters to liberate Europe, defend freedom and defeat fascism.
Like any close relationship, we’ve had our disagreements, tensions and arguments. But the values we fought for 75 years ago – liberty, cooperation, democracy and the rule of law – remain as important today as they did then. The victory of President-elect Biden presents a chance to reset that partnership and to tackle the new challenges the world faces today.
The eyes of the world have been on the US in recent days – to see which direction its people would choose. In electing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, the American people have voted for a better, more optimistic future: for unity over division, hope over fear and integrity over dishonesty.
The new president has promised to restore the US’s alliances and fill the void in global leadership. Britain should welcome this. The two biggest issues facing us all – defeating coronavirus and tackling the climate crisis – require a joined-up, global effort that has been sorely lacking in recent years.
This election also had stark lessons for those of us who want to see progressive values triumph over the forces of division and despair. The Democrats’ path to victory was paved by a broad coalition, including many of the states and communities that four years ago turned away from them.
To win back the trust of voters takes time. It takes political leaders who listen, learn and renew. Biden spoke to the soul of the nation, with a focus on who people are and what they value: family, community and security. One election victory does not mean that work is now finished for the Democrats; for us in the Labour party, it is only just beginning.
It is crucial that the British government seizes this moment. Britain is forging a new path for its future outside the European Union. I believe we can succeed and thrive, but to do so we must be a part of the change that is coming. That requires hard work and leadership.
It means working with other countries to ensure the global success and distribution of a coronavirus vaccine. It means building a more resilient, focused and effective response to the security threats posed by our adversaries. It means leading the global response to tackling climate breakdown, starting with next year’s Cop26 climate summit.
I want us to be striking the best possible trade deals for Britain, which help to create jobs, grow our industries and protect our standards. That must start with us getting a trade agreement with the European Union by the end of the year, as was promised. It also means being a country that abides by the rule of the law.
We will soon have a president in the Oval Office who has been a passionate advocate for the preservation of the Good Friday agreement. He, like governments across the world, will take a dim view if our prime minister ploughs ahead with proposals to undermine that agreement. If the government is serious about a reset in its relationship with the US, then it should take an early first step and drop these proposals.
Equally, when our allies are wrong, Britain should be prepared to speak out and say so. We are at our best when the world knows we have the courage of our convictions and a clear moral purpose. That we are standing up for our beliefs and our shared values. In recent years, this has been absent. For the United States of America and for Britain, this is the time to return to the world stage. This is the time for us to lead.
• Keir Starmer is leader of the Labour party and MP for Holborn and St Pancras