This article studies the ideational underpinnings of the UK Coalition government's ‘liberal conservative’ foreign policy. It begins by suggesting that an Iraq-centric account of Blair's foreign policy suggests a grand vision on the prime minister's part that was lacking from his earlier foreign policy adventures, which relied on a more conventional form of British statecraft. The second section contends that the Gordon Brown years 2007–10 and, since the end of New Labour, Coalition foreign policy, can be seen as a response both to the substance and style of Blair's highly personalised stewardship of foreign policy post-9/11. The war on terror and the invasion of Iraq were accompanied by a seemingly open-ended democracy promotion around the globe which was quite out of character with past British practice. The article argues, therefore, that under Brown and Cameron cautious pragmatism has tended to win out over the proclamation of grand strategic ambition.