Theresa May backs Boris Johnson amid claims he is seen as a 'joke' by diplomats

Reports claim civil servants have been 'horrified' by the Foreign Secretary's lack of discipline

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 29 August 2017 16:29
Comments
 Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street

Theresa May has been forced to insist she has “full confidence” in Boris Johnson amid claims the Foreign Secretary is viewed as a “joke” on the world stage.

Number 10 said the Prime Minister had a “good relationship” with her Cabinet colleague in response to reports that he had lost the respect of allies at home and abroad.

A highly critical column in The Times cited concerns from diplomatic sources that White House officials “don’t want to go anywhere near Boris because they think he’s a joke”.

Intelligence chiefs were also said to be wary of sharing sensitive information with the Foreign Secretary, while civil servants were “horrified” by his lack of discipline and prefer to deal with junior Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan.

Responding to the claims, a Downing Street spokeswoman said: "I'm not going to comment on a column in a newspaper.

"But the Prime Minister meets the Foreign Secretary regularly and they have a good relationship."

Asked if Mr Johnson had the confidence of his European counterparts, she said: "The Prime Minister has a good relationship with Boris Johnson, has full confidence in him and he's doing a good job."

Mr Johnson was described as the “Where’s Wally” of international diplomacy in the piece by journalist Rachel Sylvester, where she suggested he was “condemning the UK to irrelevance by proxy”.

Political strategists and leading business figures in the US had approached her to ask “Why has your prime minister appointed a fool as foreign secretary?”, the newspaper said.

An unnamed minister also said: "It's worse in Europe. There is not a single foreign minister there who takes him seriously. They think he's a clown who can never resist a gag."

The criticism comes says after a senior diplomat accused Mr Johnson of being “a Trump apologist”, condemning his failure to speak out on global issues such as conflict in Venezuela and the nuclear threat in North Korea.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, the former head of the diplomatic service and the architect of Article 50, wrote in the London Evening Standard: “Keeping our heads down isn’t always wrong.

“But a policy of always doing so risks seeming ignominious. And it devalues the prospect of continued foreign policy cooperation which should be a card in our Brexit hand.

“I don’t believe the Foreign Office has lost all the necessary expertise. I do wonder if the Foreign Secretary has a taste for the necessary application.”

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