Friday 23 March 2018

Boris Johnson is a National and International Embarrassment

Has Britain ever had a foreign secretary anything like Boris Johnson? Foreign secretaries are normally very guarded about what they say in public, because first and foremost, the job is the most senior UK diplomat handling international issues. That is the way diplomacy works, and to do anything else is likely to be counterproductive. The art of diplomacy is to get agreements where everyone can claim some sort of victory.

As reported in the Guardian, the latest embarrassing remarks to emanate from the lips of Johnson are his almost casual comparison of the current Russian government as similar to Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany of the 1930s. This was the exchange:

Johnson made the Hitler comparison while speaking before the all-party foreign affairs select committee and responding to remarks from the Labour MP Ian Austin, who called for England to pull out of the World Cup altogether. “Putin is going to use it in the way Hitler used the 1936 Olympics,” Austin said.

Johnson replied: “I think that your characterisation of what is going to happen in Moscow, the World Cup, in all the venues – yes, I think the comparison with 1936 is certainly right. It is an emetic prospect of Putin glorying in this sporting event.”

The rule of thumb when debating issues is that the first one to mention Hitler has lost the argument, thank you foreign secretary! Whatever you think of Putin and the Russian government, it is crass to compare it to the Nazis. Even more so, given the history of the loss of millions of Russian lives sacrificed fighting Hitler’s army.

This though is just the latest example of Johnson’s complete unsuitability for his job. Of course, he is only in the job because the Tories need to keep a pro and anti Brexit balance in the Cabinet, but foreign secretary is definitely not the role for Boris. Come to think of it, I can’t imagine what Cabinet job he would do well at? Transport maybe? Although he did nothing for transport in London when he was Mayor, except inheriting those bikes and hiking the fares on tube and buses.

This is the man who has failed so spectacularly to get British national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe released from an Iranian prison on a highly dubious espionage conviction. Going so far as to risk getting her a longer sentence, by using loose, flippant language about the case in public. He told a Parliamentary committee that Ratcliffe had been training journalists in the region, and she was promptly hauled in front of an Iranian court and told her sentence may be doubled to ten years.

At the Tory party conference last year, Johnson said that he knew businessmen who “have got a brilliant vision to turn Sirte (in worn torn Libya) into the next Dubai. The only thing they have got to do is clear the dead bodies away.” The remark was rightly, roundly condemned, and certainly not anywhere near diplomatic language.

Johnson also got into a row with the Italian economic minister Carlo Calenda, when Johnson claimed  it was “bollocks” that free movement of people is one of the European Union’s founding principles. Calenda is quoted as saying “he basically said: ‘I don’t want free movement of people but I want the single market,’” Mr Calenda told Bloomberg. “I said: ‘No way.’ He said: ‘You’ll sell less prosecco.’ I said: ‘OK, you’ll sell less fish and chips, but I’ll sell less prosecco to one country and you’ll sell less to 27 countries.’ Putting things on this level is a bit insulting.”

And so to Johnson’s part in the EU referendum. He had a reputation for being from the liberal wing of the Tory party, and despite some opportunistic journalism for the Telegraph and Spectator, was never really that animated by the EU. Indeed, his father and sister have gone on record as saying that Johnson had never shown any interest in leaving the EU, prior to the referendum being called.

Naked ambition got the better of him, as he calculated that whichever way the referendum went, there would soon be a vacancy for Tory leader (and prime minister), with party members being given final say between two MPs selected by their peers. The membership of the Tory party, aging, white, middle to upper class, are overwhelmingly anti-EU. Hey presto!

When David Cameron resigned as prime minister after the referendum, Johnson was quickly out of the blocks submitting his candidacy, only to later withdraw after being stabbed in the back by his colleague, Michael Gove. It did earn him his present job as foreign secretary though, and there may well be vacancy at the top again soon.

Johnson’s comment about the EU can “go whistle” for a divorce payment when we leave the organisation, has in fact turned out to be “bollocks” as UK has now agreed to pay around £40 billion. His claim that we can make Brexit a “Titanic success” betrays his schooling in the classics, and that he is completely out of touch with common parlance. Most people associate any reference to Titanic to mean the ship that sank after hitting an iceberg. Not what Johnson was trying to express at all.

We are enough of a laughing stock globally at the moment, why make matters infinitely much worse by having a national representative to the world who is such self seeking prat?     

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