Britain used to take international affairs and our relationship with other countries with the seriousness it deserved. But with just two strokes of her pen, new Prime Minister Theresa May has returned Britain to its newly found status as an international joke. When a US State Department spokesman was told about Boris Johnson becoming Foreign Secretary last night, he almost laughed, while German TV presenters didn't even hold back. A friend who was at the Foreign Office messaged me last night to say: “Boris fucking Johnson in Beirut dealing with Syria? I can't even deal with this lunacy."
But if appointing Johnson is a joke, the PM’s decision to put Liam Fox on front-line politics again is nothing short of dishonourable. Remember that Fox was forced to resign in disgrace as Defence Secretary in 2011 because he had invited his old mate Adam Werrity, a lobbyist, to international trips and private Ministry of Defence meetings even though he had no official role in Government and no security clearance. Werrity handed out business cards suggesting he was Fox’s adviser and went along to meetings with defence contractors and diplomats. It was a serious breach of security and a serious abuse of governmental power.
Liam Fox shouldn’t have just retired from the front bench; he should have been asked to resign as an MP in disgrace. Even in much more corrupt countries than ours, such a dereliction of duty on national defence matters is taken very seriously.
Theresa May was supposed to be a safe pair of hands – so why did she start denigrating our position on the world stage within hours of becoming PM? Because she put domestic politics ahead of our international standing. Both Johnson and Fox were prominent Brexiteers (along with David Davis, who is now in charge of actually implementing Brexit) and she wanted to ensure no one could accuse her of being soft on our referendum choice to leave the EU.
And May will probably get away with it because political journalists in Westminster are too busy being awed by her “bold” move. On the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning there was no mention of Liam Fox’s resignation in disgrace at all. It was as if it hadn’t even taken place. If a Labour government had done something similar, you can bet John Humphrys’s salary he would have harangued a Labour MP about it.
Arguably, it is clever to ask those who broke Britain by getting us to vote Leave to fix what they started. But I don’t want clever politicking – I want Britain to get serious about the huge challenges we face as a country now we have to leave the EU. And those who praise the politicking over the implications this has are being derelict in their duty.
Liam Fox doesn’t have the moral authority any more to criticise other countries on corruption or conflicts of interest. He is tainted – and by association so is the entire British Government. By appointing Johnson and Fox, our new Prime Minister has put her political priorities ahead of Britain’s priorities. And that is a dangerous start at a very precarious time.
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