The problem for ‘Global Britain’ is that old partnerships are growing weaker

Editorial: A British prime minister speaking at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet would, once upon a time, be studied with great care around the world. No longer

Monday 15 November 2021 21:30

A British prime minister gets up in his finery at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet and dilates on his foreign policy aims. Once upon a time, such a speech might be studied with great care in Washington and Moscow, Paris and Berlin, Beijing and Tokyo. There would be a top-level analysis, and even some trepidation.

Nowadays, it must be faced, fewer people are even listening. It is unlikely that, for example, Boris Johnson’s sub-Churchillian rhetoric will cause much loss of sleep for Vladimir Putin, or even Alexander Lukashenko, the despot of Minsk. Today, the British are not just scorned in places such as Tehran but, worse, ignored. Were it not for a debt the UK admits it owes Iran dating back to the Shah’s time, the British would be no more than pantomime villains there and in much of the world.

Hard work by British diplomats made Cop26 a relative success, but it was achieved in spite of Britain’s increasingly poor international reputation. Neither the presence of the prime minister, nor his absence in critical moments, made much difference.

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