Belatedly Figuring out the Grisly Logic of Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary.
Like everyone else, my jaw hit the table with a deafening clang and had to be winched carefully back into position when Theresa May announced the appointment of Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary. How could anyone hate
Britain (or what’s left of Britain) so much? How could anyone have such devastating contempt for Britain as to make Bojo its official recognition. Bojo – ever since the end of June, possibly the single most discredited public figure in the world. Someone who had spent months and months spouting lies he didn’t believe in, so as to gamble on not quite winning a referendum – risking the long term future of more than sixty million people just to gratify his ego.
A serial, proven, impenitent liar. A nation wrecker. A user and abuser. Rewarded with one of the highest offices of state. Has Theresa May nurtured a lifelong grudge against
Britain, spent every day, week, month and year of her existence bringing it to fruition, but putting herself in a position to appoint someone who will ensure that Britain loses every last scrap of trust and respect in the international community?
The truth is rather less magniloquent. May turns out to be a consummate strategist. An unenthusiastic Remainer determined to slow things down, she needs to put Leavers in prominent “Leaving” positions so that they’re the ones who get bogged down. As for Boris of the FO – well – the FO can be one of the decisive offices of state or it can be a very cosmetic ones. The Foreign Secretary does not usually “make” foreign policy. Indeed, the Prime Minister can often do the Foreign Secretary’s job themselves – and sometimes does. I predict a lot of Skyping from Theresa May’s office to those leaders about to be favoured with Bojo’s presence.
Bojo isn’t fond of actual work. Give him a fancy office and an enormous chair and lots of airmiles and he’s a happy man. Getting things done – doesn’t bother him. He achieved very little as Mayor of London, but his manifesto commitments never haunted him. Only the cosmetic parts of the job excited him.
Back in the late 1980s, Thatcher tried to neutralise Geoffrey Howe by cosmetically promoting him, and then undermining him in practice. This strategy led to her downfall, because Howe was actually bothered by the fact that his job was kind of stupid and meaningless. Howe wanted to do some real work, wanted to feel that his office meant something – and ended up turning on Thatcher in the House of Commons, triggering her downfall. Bojo is very different. He can enjoy his fancy title and have no impact whatsoever on meaningful policy discussion, and be as happy as Larry. Bojo’s strange fans (and he retains fans, strangely) will be happy to see him in a top job and meanwhile May will do all the real talking by Skype.
From a ruthless tactical point of view – May did precisely the right thing. The only down side is the implied insult to every other nation on earth by this appointment, the utter contempt for international opinion leading to
Britain‘s name being dragged from the gutter down into the sewer. A price well worth paying, evidently.