Many illustrious people have served the United Kingdom as foreign secretary over the centuries. Certainly there have been some failures and even disasters among those appointed to this important post — but until now the Foreign Office has never suffered such a five-star, mendacious, cheap charlatan as the man who was selected on July 13 to present and explain Britain’s policies to the world.
In the weeks before a majority of Britons voted on June 23 to leave the European Union — the Brexit decision — one of the contestants to be prime minister was a man called Boris Johnson. After the vote, Prime Minister David Cameron, an honorable man, resigned. Then, in what can be described only as an act of bizarre eccentricity his successor, the otherwise highly competent Theresa May, appointed Boris Johnson to be Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. Most of the world considered her selection as an aberration, and reaction varied from expressions of amazement to downright mirth.
Johnson is clever and has a certain juvenile attractiveness for some people because his private life is colorful and chaotic while he has a certain facility with words and gives the impression that he could be all things to all men and to a certain number of women.
He is also a proven and unrepentant liar.
When he was a reporter for the UK’s Times newspaper he fabricated a quotation and was sacked for his dishonesty, although it is intriguing that he was dismissed by a newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch, who had gone ahead with publication of the Hitler Diaries that he knew to be forged on the basis that “after all, we are in the entertainment business.” And then Boris showed that he, too, was entertaining. Mr Murdoch’s Sunday Times revealed in 2004 that “Boris Johnson, the Tory MP and editor of the Spectator magazine, was last night sacked as a frontbench spokesman by [Conservative Party leader] Michael Howard for lying about his private life.”
According to the Times, “his fate was sealed by the mother of his alleged mistress, Petronella Wyatt, who said her daughter had become pregnant by him and had an abortion last month.
Johnson, who is married with four children, had categorically dismissed the allegations as an ‘inverted pyramid of piffle’ . . . [and] the episode brings an end to an unlikely but uniquely engaging political career. Johnson . . . became one of the few modern Tories able to capture the public imagination, even provoking speculation he could be a future leader.”
The trouble for Britain is that although Johnson is a twofaced, devious, posturing piece of slime who can’t be trusted to tell the time of day, he was most effective in capturing the public’s attention and helping persuade a majority to vote to leave the European Union.
He achieved this in spite of telling a barefaced lie about how much the UK contributes financially to the EU, described in detail in the Guardian newspaper, and his behavior during the campaign he waged against those who wished to remain in the EU was deceitful and dishonorable. He wasn’t particularly anti-Europe as a principle of personal belief — but he desperately wanted to be prime minister of Britain and put himself forward as the ideal leader after he back-stabbed his friend Prime Minister David Cameron, who took the honorable course of action and resigned after the Brexit vote.
But then Boris himself was stabbed in the back by a fellow conspirator called Michael Gove whose countenance might inspire a casual observer to imagine a facial amalgam of tortoise and ferret. The Gove aura is also unpleasant, and although he had supported Boris during the Brexit campaign, he scented power after the vote to leave and announced that although “I have repeatedly said that I do not want to be prime minister . . . I have come, reluctantly, to the conclusion that Boris cannot provide the leadership . . . for the task ahead.” So in the vulgar and increasingly absurd struggle to be leader of the British government it was exit devious disloyal Boris and enter devious disloyal Gove.
But not for long : because Gove, too, got his comeuppance and was defeated when the governing Conservative Party’s Members of Parliament belatedly realized he was too much of a joke to consider as leader of a country that was becoming a laughing-stock around the world. In a quick move, they selected Theresa May.
What is unpleasant and distressing is that Britain looks foolish and has lost credibility, all because of a bunch of liars. Further, in an appalling example of the horrendous divisions deliberately encouraged in the country by Brexit Boris and his fellow fabricators, the number of incidents in Britain of “hate crime” — in plain words, the number of incidents of insult, harassment and physical assault of racial minorities, black, brown and Eastern European — increased to over 3,000 in the week before and the week after the referendum. Johnson helped direct Britain’s racists to a sewer down which to discharge their filthy prejudices.
As we’ve seen with the Brexit shambles and the US-NATO wars in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, liars and their lies have more influence than common-sense and truth. Hatred of foreigners in Britain was spurred by the facile rhetoric of ‘Britain First’ xenophobes like Boris Johnson, just as hatred of Russia is being stimulated by the confrontational oratory of the leaders of the US-NATO alliance.
Britain has made its Brexit bed and now must lie on it, but there might be a chance for rapprochement between Russia and US-NATO if the liars can be called off. Dedicated diplomacy is the way ahead, but Britain’s new prime minister would do well to remember that her foreign secretary may not be the most desirable mediator in this or any other diplomatic venture.
In his flights of juvenile verbosity he has casually insulted world figures, none of whom is likely to warm to this newly-appointed representative. Among other offensive observations he said that Hillary Clinton has “dyed blonde hair and pouty lips, and a steely blue stare, like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital” while President Obama is “downright hypocritical” and President Putin is “a ruthless and manipulative tyrant.” The Donald, of course, is described as “out of his mind” and exhibiting “stupefying ignorance.”
Some of us might agree with at least some of these sentiments, but that is irrelevant. This man is supposed to represent and indeed epitomize all that is rational, balanced and civilized in Britain’s foreign policy. (His two references to the coup in Turkey as “the crisis in Egypt” are amusing, but he can hardly be expected to pick up geography after only a week in his appointment.)
Not content with abusing individuals, Johnson cheerfully writes off millennia of Chinese music, art and literature and asserts that “Chinese cultural influence is virtually nil, and unlikely to increase.” The arrogance and ignorance of that absurd proclamation are complemented by his attitude to colored peoples for whom he demonstrates a would-be humorous contempt. It cannot have impressed or delighted Queen Elizabeth when Johnson declared that “It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies.” The rabid racism of this statement was appalling, but he didn’t stop there. He went on to write that when Prime Minister Tony Blair was about to visit war-torn Congo “No doubt . . . the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird.”
How very amusing; but perhaps not the sort of thing we expect to hear from the head of Britain’s Foreign Office, which “works with international organizations to promote UK interests and global security” It will be gratifying for all the piccaninnies to know that promotion of global security is in the hands of someone who likes watermelon smiles.
Johnson attempted to deny his insults and blunders in the usual way, by declaring that they weren’t understood “in their proper context.” But he did not explain how the word “piccaninnies” could possibly be taken out of context. And if he has to meet with Hillary Clinton in the future, it will be understandable if he is withered by her “steely blue stare.”
Britain’s prime minister would do well to reconsider her decision to appoint this gobbet of slime to a position of responsibility in her government. He will not serve Britain well.