Fist bumps, Putin and going topless: What we did – and didn’t – learn from the G7

World leaders are more often than not blessed with phenomenal people skills, and Boris Johnson being his usual tedious, bumbling self appeared not to bother them any more than normal

So how did it go then, Johnson’s week in the global spotlight?

When you’ve lost two by-elections, which happened only because one of your MPs sexually assaulted a child and another watched tractor-based pornography in the House of Commons, there could hardly be a more apposite time for a prime minister to have a little statesman’s holiday.

So how did it go then, Johnson’s week in the global spotlight, his bid to restore a bit of dignity to whatever it is he might have left to which any dignity at all can still be restored?

It’s hard to squeeze in all the edited highlights, principally because there are none of them, but we can but try. There was the bit where he sat around a table with the rest of the G7 leaders and told them “we should take our shirts off to show we are tougher than Putin”.

It’s not quite as awkward as you might think. Theresa May notwithstanding, world leaders are more often than not blessed with phenomenal people skills, and Johnson being his usual tedious, bumbling self appeared not to bother them any more than normal.

Macron wisely said nothing. Justin Trudeau waffled a bit before changing the subject. Putin, meanwhile, has already issued a direct response. “I don’t know how they wanted to get undressed, above or below the waist,” he said. “But I think it would be a disgusting sight in any case.”

That Putin appears to be confused as to whether taking one’s shirt off involves getting undressed above or below the waist is somewhat troubling. But then he has a lot on his mind at the moment and it’s possible he’s become confused with what he’s been reading in this week’s Private Eye magazine, which describes an incident of below-the-waist nudity involving, yes, our great statesman leader, on a sofa in his office, which another MP had the misfortune to walk in on.

The magazine does not report which MP it was, though it will doubtless make for sad reading for Neil Parish, the now former member for Tiverton and Honiton, who wouldn’t have had to bother getting his iPhone out if he’d known there was – allegedly – a live-action show to be found right behind Boris Johnson’s office door.

Far too much is made of the still photographs from grand events such as the G7 – though much is made of them precisely because they are the chief reason leaders attend them. If there were no group shots for the cameras one suspects they’d never happen at all. So Johnson probably won’t like very much the already viral picture of him reaching across the table at the Nato summit in Madrid, stretching out toward Joe Biden for a fist bump, and Biden, arms very much by his side, looking at him like he might be an anthropomorphised piece of decayed white dogs*** (have the tests ever been done?).

And there’s the rather pleasing video of Turkey’s Recep Erdogan, creeping up behind the great statesman, placing his hand on his shoulder and keeping it there while Johnson leaps to his feet and flails about in what he imagines to be some sort of charismatic alpha gorilla display but actually looks like mild terror.

You probably know a bit of the backstory here. Erdogan, though arguably not the world’s finest human being, was quite crucial to the main event of the Nato summit, namely dropping his opposition to Sweden and Finland joining Nato, the agreement that made this a genuinely historic event.

Relations between Erdogan and Johnson are probably best described as tense. Six years ago Johnson, at the age of 52, was unable to prevent himself from entering a Spectator magazine poetry competition in which he won £1,000 for a limerick about president Erdogan having sex with a goat.

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Should we care? Would Britain be better served by a leader who perhaps didn’t write limericks about “a young fellow from Ankara, Who was a terrific wankerer”, when the young fellow in question is also a key strategic ally?

Perhaps we should care more about the substance? About, for example, the pledge to increase defence spending by 2.5 per cent of GDP by, wait for it, “the end of the decade”. This announcement was made in a press conference at the end, and thankfully came during the short spell in the middle where the prime minister’s microphone was actually switched on.

Naturally, this is a welcome development, but the end of the decade is quite a long way off, and it also stands in complete contrast to his current position, which is to have formally abandoned his own manifesto commitment of increasing defence spending by 0.5 per cent above inflation every year.

So the big announcement is not to do much now, but sort it all out in five years or so, when there is surely nobody in the land, not even himself, who imagines this show will still be going on.

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