Boris as Foreign Secretary? That was unexpected…

So, just as Theresa May left Buckingham Palace, I had to leave home to go for a meeting. When I stepped out into an Edinburgh street and checked my phone two hours later, I realised I’d stepped into a parallel universe.  I must have done. I mean, a new Prime Minister known for careful and cautious deliberation appointing a man who had grossly insulted the President of the United States just a few weeks ago as the country’s top diplomat? It’s probably worth reminding ourselves of Boris’s response to President Obama’s “back of the queue” speech.

Johnson, a high-profile figure in the campaign for Britain to leave the EU, wrote about the decision of the Obama administration to remove a bust of Britain’s wartime leader Winston Churchill from the Oval Office.

“Some said it was a snub to Britain. Some said it was a symbol of the part-Kenyan president’s ancestral dislike of the British empire – of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender,” said Johnson in an article designed to hit back at Obama after the US president waded into the EU referendum debate on Friday.

As it happens, the bust was removed before Obama even took office. Again, like many of the Leave campaign’s claims, only the most casual relationship with the truth.

And then there was the time when he compared the EU to Hitler. 

Theresa May’s team seems so far to be bereft of team players. Boris, David Davis, Liam Fox. She’s not a team builder or player herself. It’s hard to see how this can end well.

The only thing she could do that would be more bizarre would be to appoint Michael Gove to Health to sort out the junior doctors. However, I suspect he’ll be sent packing along with his mate George.

Tim Farron wasn’t impressed either. He said that the PM had lost credibility after just 90 minutes in office.

I cannot believe that Boris Johnson is now going to be the person to represent Britain abroad. Presumably Boris Johnson’s first act as Foreign Secretary will be to apologise to the President of the United States, and then the leaders of our European partners. At this incredibly important time that will determine Britain’s economic and cultural relations with Europe, it is extraordinary that the new Prime Minister has chosen someone whose career is built on making jokes.

When the Lib Dems went into coalition with the Tories six years ago, I divided the Coalition Agreement into three parts – the good, the meh and the “lock me in a cupboard with a bottle of gin when they’re voting on this.”

I look at the new Cabinet and reach for the gin.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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57 Comments

  • Well Boris, he of the “piccaninnies’ and ‘watermelon smiles’ is Foreign Secretary….A few days ago he was the leader of those MPs backing Leadsom.. She suddenly dropped out??????????????
    You couldn’t make it up

    Tim Farron’s, “He’ll spend most of his time apologising”, has a ring of truth

  • I thought about this. And the only theory I have as to the thought processes that got to this point are, ‘I suppose it has to be a Leaver to show I’m serious about Brexit, Andrea doesn’t have the experience, and I hate Michael’s guts.’

    Which is a fair enough chain of logic. It’s just a pity it ends at station Boris.

  • Rather surprised her accepted the poisoned chalice. Think I need something stronger than gin though.

  • May certainly isn’t picking any grey men/women so far. These are not the types to be obsessed with political correctness or what the newspapers are writing about them. They are strong characters who will speak their mind. Whether it will work as a team or not I don’t know, but in will be a refreshing change from what we have had for many years. I think most voters – perhaps not at LDV – will be very pleased with the direction things are going. I’m sure the polls will show the Tories motoring away from the rest.

  • There’s a cunning plan behind those bizarre appointments. Some time in the next 4 years we’ll work out what it is. I strongly suspect Johnson and Fox are being set up to fail miserably and she cannot be blamed for leading Brexiteers not delivering on the goods and beneficial trade deals she thinks. Cue for them to be moved aside. Davis is interesting – a man of principle, working class background, wants access to the single market, and happy not to trigger Article 50 until he’s ready. Could be inspired. Or not. Certainly someone you want inside the tent.

  • BORIS : Her first serious mistake. Accident prone and clueless.

    David Davis : I forecast that on LDV after seeing her embracing him on Monday…. you heard it hear first !! BUT – her second mistake. Too flaky.

  • Malc What is Philip Hammond if not the original “grey man”?

  • Eddie Sammon 13th Jul '16 - 11:40pm

    I doubted Theresa May would do much for equality even before I saw her initial cabinet appointments. As a rule of thumb: when people say they will do one thing after doing another for the past six years the odds are that they will continue doing similar to what they have always done.

  • BORIS : Maybe Theresa wants the water cannon after all.

  • It’s quite simple. Brexit will fall apart, and Boris will be the fall guy.

  • Eddie Sammon

    A woman PM and a woman Home Secretary, a lot better than Labour and the Lib Dems have ever done and all without women only selection lists. It could be better, but the other parties have a lot to learn from the Tories.

  • I’m worried about David Davis. He does want access to the single market, but in his recent article on ConservativeHome he affirms his determination not to compromise on border control and seems overly focused on tarriffs for goods, neglecting to mention the more important services sector and passporting. I wouldn’t like to see him giving up our financial services sector in return for ending freedom of movement.

  • Alisdair McGregor 14th Jul '16 - 12:55am

    Not half as unexpected as appointing The Disgraced Dr Liam Fox to a position as Minister for International Trade.

    This is Dr Liam Fox who previously breached the Ministerial Code and had an associate selling Ministerial access to international trading companies.

    In any decent party, Fox would have had the whip withdrawn and been told in no uncertain terms to resign. In the Tories they give him another ministerial post!

  • Matt (Bristol) 14th Jul '16 - 1:04am

    I don’t know, I go down the pub for two hours and when I return…
    I should have stayed down the pub.
    2016 – The Year It All Went A Bit Weird.

  • So long to ‘dignity’ and all that.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Jul '16 - 6:57am

    Diplomats want to do things such as talking to Foreign and Commonwealth governments, but a series of governments since Harold Macmillan have told them to increase export sales. There was a political crisis when the pound was devalued from £2.80 to £2.40. It is now about $1.30.
    Comparing the UK economy to the Nike Swoosh is worth considering. The down is short term and happening. The up is further in the future and needs to be achieved.
    Is it really true that Boris Johnson speaks seven languages? William Hague said that he visited Turkey more often than any other country, more often than all other countries combined.

  • malc

    “A woman PM and a woman Home Secretary, a lot better than Labour and the Lib Dems have ever done and all without women only selection lists”

    A point that you will hear a deafening silence on for years.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Jul '16 - 7:10am

    There was a political crisis when the pound was devalued from $2.80 to £$2.40. It is now about $1.30. The Prime Minister said that “the pound in your pocket” would not be affected, but, of course, it was.

  • Richard Cooper 14th Jul '16 - 7:46am

    Paul -I had to smile at the comparison of George Brown & Boris. Those of us old enough to remember George will remember how he was good for some laughs, but I suspect he didn’t have the streak of ruthless nastiness than Boris attempts to conceal behind his “buffoon” act.
    Stevan – My feeling is you may well be right on this – setting up the Brexiteers to fail, so she can then get rid of them. David Davis is a sincere defender of personal liberty and rights to privacy, but can’t see him as hard-nosed enough to thrash out a Brexit deal. As for Boris, even by the gutter standards of some politicians, he shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near government after his referendum conduct. A liar and a coward.

  • Tony Dawson 14th Jul '16 - 8:19am

    The Cabinet choices so far could well have been chosen through a Daily Mail readers’ competition – until you realise that they may be the best of a bad bunch – or, more accurately, like Theresa May herself, perhaps, the best of a poor bunch? Mrs May has been an appalling Home Secretary in terms of achievement of stated aims in immigration and security matters. I presume that she has read all the stuff about Hilary Clinton’s email cover-ups, comtemplated Donald Trumps gross erraticism and inability to deal with his hair, and chose a foreign Secretary who could turn up for cocktails and match either.

    The speech outside number 10 was a gross mistake. Whereas Maggie Thatcher’s ‘St Francis of Assisi’ nonsense on her own accession, while dishonest, was vague and general, Teresa May’s copy contained too many firm elements of promise which no Tory government led by anyone will ever live up to. Her failure to perform will be matched up against each sentence over the years and thrown back in her face.

  • Peter Davies 14th Jul '16 - 8:22am

    @Psi. Tory members did just get an all women shortlist. The difference is they didn’t get a chance to vote on it.

  • Rightsaidfredfan 14th Jul '16 - 8:34am

    @malc

    For a liberal a persons sex or any other characteristics that they did choose are irrelevant, it’s only the social democrats on the authoritarian regressive left that want equality out outcome amongst artificial sub groups that the group society into. Liberals tend want equality of opportunity from all which you can only have if you discrimate against no one. Teresa’s and amber are both there on merit, so it’s their personal achievement, not the Tories.

  • malc 13th Jul ’16 – 11:51pm………….A woman PM and a woman Home Secretary, a lot better than Labour and the Lib Dems have ever done and all without women only selection lists. It could be better, but the other parties have a lot to learn from the Tories………

    Your post reminds me of an old TV show, “Never Mind the Quality; Feel the Width”…

    After the promise of ‘middle ground’ her cabinet has already lurched to the ‘Right’….

    As for a ‘woman’ Home Secretary…This woman hardly made a success of her time as ‘Energy Secretary’ but, in your world, being a ‘woman’ appears the only qualification needed…..

  • John Shoesmith 14th Jul '16 - 8:44am

    I wonder who really selected Boris. The Press Barons? The Tory Party donors? The Etonian chums concerned to to maintain control of power when Cameron and Osborne go?

  • jayne mansfield 14th Jul '16 - 8:47am

    @ Psi,
    Am I wrong in thinking that Andrea Leadsom and Amber Rudd were on the Conservative’s A list?

  • expats

    “but, in your world, being a ‘woman’ appears the only qualification needed…”

    You couldn’t be more wrong. All I ever want is that the best person gets the job, I don’t care if they are female or male, black or white.

  • Malc,
    In what world does Amber Rudd’s record make her ‘the best person’?

    Still, in a cabinet with Johnson and Fox, achievement has little value….IMO ‘Brexit’ has confirmed the Tory mantra of “Party First; Country Second”….

  • Mrs May has carefully plotted her way to No10. Do not underestimate her guile. What positive impact did Hammond have in the job other than pose for photo ops? Could it be an opportunity to fail with little chance of success?

  • I tend to side with those who recognize that Theresa My is a person who has thought through what she does and what she says…I agree there is a whiff of handing jobs to the three gentlemen at Foreign Office,Brexit and Trade because there is little likelihood of them staying on the same hymn sheet. David Davis will have his resignation prepared if Boris obstructs him, Liam Fox has a record which is somewhat worrying, opening up trade deals hopefully will not lead to queries as to his conductThis happy band of pilgrims will be thrown to the wolves if they make any mistakes.

  • Matt (Bristol) 14th Jul '16 - 9:52am

    So far, apart from Amber Rudd, all appointees served alongside May under Hague, IDS or Howard (even Boris).

    Is this the deliberate routing of the Cameroons?

  • Too many negative comments for my liking.
    Give them a chance. ‘Brexit means Brexit’.
    I like this shake up, I am just sorry Liberal Democrats are under the radar.
    Come on Great Britain let us accept it and be part of making Britain great again.

  • Joan Hand 14th Jul ’16 – 10:08am…………Too many negative comments for my liking.
    Give them a chance. ‘Brexit means Brexit’.
    I like this shake up, I am just sorry Liberal Democrats are under the radar.
    Come on Great Britain let us accept it and be part of making Britain great again……..

    “Forward, the Light Brigade!”
    Was there a man dismay’d?
    Not tho’ the soldier knew
    Someone had blunder’d:
    Theirs not to make reply,
    Theirs not to reason why,
    Theirs but to do and die:..etc

  • @Expats 10.12am

    I hope it is more of a Waterloo.
    Let’s fight the battle when it starts not anticipate the worst.

  • @ Joan Hand “Give them a chance”…… I’m not unsympathetic to that, Joan. Indeed when I first heard Mrs May talk about her aspirations I was quite hopeful.

    BUT……Sadly, I think some of her appointments are dreadful…… Johnson I am afraid is a potential disaster area without a bone of principle in him (I’d watch my back if I was Theresa). As for the disgraced Fox…… keep a look out for Werrity.

    I genuinely hope I’m wrong but I have a bad feeling about the next few years. The whole political scene metaphorically has a look of the aftermath of the Battle of the Somme.- and that’s in all parties. I’m polishing my passport ready for the next time I go through Berwick and Calais.

  • PS Gove, Osborne, Whittingdale and Morgan out is all good news. A tad more hopeful ?

    Interesting to know what happens to Jeremy Hunt.

  • Chris Bertram 14th Jul '16 - 1:38pm

    @Richard Cooper: “Paul -I had to smile at the comparison of George Brown & Boris. Those of us old enough to remember George will remember how he was good for some laughs”. Not always for terribly fortunate reasons. Boris, I suspect, can hold his drink rather better than George Brown could.

  • Richard Boyd OBE DL 14th Jul '16 - 3:56pm

    If thle reason for Boris to have the poisoned chalice has any validity, then the “lightning rod” to explain away the failure to achieve all the fabricated advantages of Brexit would apply. Boris would be unable to produce the outcomes that he promised. May would have given Brexiters what they bayed for, and the failure would be for Boris to be blamed for.
    Cynical or a Hemlock cocktail?
    In passing I noted David Cameron’s “achievements” he listed included new warships (that cannot use weapons when the radar is switched on, and weren’t the two carriers ordered by PM Brown?

  • David Garlick 14th Jul '16 - 4:33pm

    The Brexit crew have the jobs that are there to make Brexit a reality and will take the blame if it all goes wrong. More worryingly some of the other appointments look even weaker than Boris at The Foreign Office. If he makes a hash of the job at least he can be got rid of when he makes one of his inevitable bloomers!

  • George Brown……………….. I remember him repeatedly walking into a locked door in Westminster on the night he resigned “feeling tired and emotional”. He was convinced Harold Wilson was on the other side and refusing to meet him. In fact Harold was safely tucked up in Downing Street.

  • expats

    ‘Your post reminds me of an old TV show, “Never Mind the Quality; Feel the Width”…’

    I’m no fan of May but she was as far as I could see the ‘least bad’ of the available candidates, male or female. She will not be good from my point of view but that is because she is a Tory not because she is a woman.

    “As for a ‘woman’ Home Secretary…This woman hardly made a success of her time as ‘Energy Secretary’ but, in your world, being a ‘woman’ appears the only qualification needed…..”

    Err that is the wrong comparison, who else has been put in cabinet? As you have spotted there is Fox and Johnson? What about Hunt and Grayling? Of all the Cabinet appointments I choked at first Home Sec was not top of the list, again in role and not because they are women… My dislike of the new ministers is due to their ideas, your attack on female cabinet ministers is simply selection bias (they are all bad).

  • jayne mansfield

    “Am I wrong in thinking that Andrea Leadsom and Amber Rudd were on the Conservative’s A list?”

    I don’t know if you are wrong they were on the “A-list” but you would be wrong to use that as a comparison.

    Was the “A-List” all women? No.

    Was the “A-List” compulsory for constituencies? No.

    The Tories have used positive action (which is different to positive discrimination despite some people’s failure to understand) and I have defenced their attempst at positive action in a number of areas.

    The issue is that the Tories top women are more noticeable for their ideas (even if I/you dislike them) than many Labour women.

    I and others have repeatedly pointed out the article on Conservative Home about “how the Tories won” which talks about how they relied far more upon soft power to get their underrepresented groups in positions. It is interesting that the LibDems copied the Labour approach rather than the Tories (and why did they fail at the Tory, soft power, approach?).

    Tory women are less defined by their gender (inspite of the current media focus on it for the next few weeks), and for any one aged under 40 half of the Tory Prime Ministers in their lifetimes have been women. Labour and the LibDems mean while haven’t even elected a Female UK leader. But no following Harriet Harman’s ideas will result in a “culture change” which will increase Women at the top?

  • Richard Underhill 15th Jul '16 - 3:49pm

    Sort of, my letter to the Kent and Sussex Courier, published today said
    “There is a job which includes frequent visits to the Sahel…”
    actually two jobs.

  • Boris’ appointment was more about internal conservative party politics than who would be best in the nation andor planet’s interest

  • Richard Underhill 16th Jul '16 - 9:55am

    ” .. there was the time when he compared the EU to Hitler” who wanted to unify Europe by force, whereas all the EU members are established democracies and joined voluntarily.

  • Richard Underhill 16th Jul '16 - 10:16am

    The primary purpose of the EU is peace, which is in the Lisbon Treaty, partial successor to the constitutional treaty rejected by French and Dutch voters. The attempted inclusion of a religion in the constitutional treaty would have been a mistake, contrary to the main objective of peace, because there have been many wars involving religion. This is not a new issue. When militaristic Prussia included some Polish Catholics they decided on freedom of religion.

  • Jayne Mansfield 17th Jul '16 - 2:34pm

    @ Psi,
    No indeed it is not the same as all women short lists. However, David Cameron’s desire to broaden the number of candidates from minority groups and women demonstrated a realisation that progression in increasing the number of MPS from these groups required positive action.

    Much as I would like to see those from these groups growing in number organically, the reality is that there is a refusal to accept the unfair disadvantages that candidates from these groups face. Disadvantages that have been fully argued in the past.

    Less progressive Conservatives selection committees clearly have a different view which must have been a disappointment to David Cameron. However, it is interesting to see how many women on the A List have been walking up to 10 Downing Street to be offered promotion by Theresa May.

  • Jayne Mansfield 17th Jul '16 - 2:38pm

    Given the latest events in Turkey and the worsening relations between Erdogan and America, the appointment of Boris Johnson fills me with even greater dread than I thought possible..

  • Richard Underhill 17th Jul '16 - 11:10pm

    “Brexit means Brexit” is a circular statement, essentially meaningless, a blank page on which a variety of people can write their own definitions.
    In the July 15-21 edition of The New European Alastair Campbell says
    “Having been to Latin America last week, may I say much of the rest of the world sees us today as a country which has opted voluntarily for decline, at worst a global laughing stock”. In an open letter to Theresa May he says that the appointment of her Foreign Secretary has “gone down like a global dose of the Zika virus”.
    He ignores GOTV.

  • Jayne Mansfield

    You mentioned that Cameron recognised the need for positive action, which as I said above:
    “The Tories have used positive action (which is different to positive discrimination despite some people’s failure to understand) and I have defenced their attempts at positive action in a number of areas.”

    So there is no objection here from forms of positive action (I remember many people on here making snide comments about the Tories attempts prior to 2010) but those need to be well targeted and with the risks involved understood. As I said positive action is far more effective than positive discrimination, particularly when you don’t have safe seats.

    “Much as I would like to see those from these groups growing in number organically, the reality is that there is a refusal to accept the unfair disadvantages that candidates from these groups face. Disadvantages that have been fully argued in the past.”

    Well I’m not suggesting that pure organic response is sufficient, however there has been nothing about taking on numerous small changes that may help remove barriers or positive steps that may lift people up and instead opt for the blunt and ineffective object of AWS with o consideration of the adverse impact it could also have on candidates.
    The A-List is not a good argument to defend AWS as the LibDems mocked the Tories for it at the time and did not copy it but copied the Labour approach.

    “Less progressive Conservatives selection committees clearly have a different view which must have been a disappointment to David Cameron”

    Lots of his A-list people became candidates and several became MPs so I don’t think he is too worried. Besides as constituencies were free to chose whether to take from the A-list or not means they candidates were able to say they were not there simply as chums of central office.

  • Richard Underhill 18th Jul '16 - 2:39pm

    The mane story today is that the UK’s new foreign secretary has had a haircut.
    His predecessor as MP for Henley, Michael Heseltine, had a haircut when he wanted to become defence secretary, although he resigned over helicopters.

  • Richard Underhill 21st Jul '16 - 10:13am

    William Hague said that he visited Turkey more often than any other country, more often than all other countries combined.
    The FCO S of S 2010-2015 has given Boris Johnson advice in the Daily Telegraph, a to do list of ten items including Cyprus, of which the UK is a guarantor. The UK also has sovereign bases there, which were allegedly within range of Iraqi missiles.
    There are ten of thousands of Turkish soldiers in the north, who have not made headlines in respect of the recent coup on the Turkish mainland and, allegedly, in the Turkish navy.
    The Republic of Cyprus is both a Commonwealth member and an EU member state. There are communities of Greek and Turkish Cypriots in the UK, including London.
    So Boris, what would Disraeli have done?

  • Richard Underhill 2nd Feb '17 - 11:58am

    Theresa May’s visit to Turkey could and should have included discussions about Cyprus, but did it? If not, why not? (Cypriots and Maltese) were among those allowed to vote in the 2016 referendum. The UK has obligations and sovereign bases.

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