Is there one thing Johnson can look back at and say ‘yes, I did that’? Apart from allegedly driving French politicians "ballistic"?by Steve Bloomfield / July 9, 2018 / Leave a comment
The secret meeting between two Libyan warlords arranged by the French foreign minister was so hush-hush that only a handful of people in the Elysée and the French foreign ministry knew anything about it.
A few days before it took place, Jean-Yves Le Drian decided to widen the circle and rang his counterpart in the UK, Boris Johnson. It was a courtesy call; a recognition that the British had been a partner in the Libyan intervention and its messy aftermath.
Under no circumstances, Le Drian told Johnson, must you mention this to anyone—if it gets out, he said, the deal could be scuppered.
Later that week, at a meeting of the 28 foreign ministers of the European Union, Johnson publicly praised Le Drian for his work on Libya and mentioned the secret meeting.
Le Drian, according to someone briefed on the meeting, went “fucking ballistic.” From then on, he refused to speak to Johnson outside of official engagements.
It is hard to do justice to how little respect the man formerly known as Britain’s foreign secretary had around the world. “European foreign ministers despise him,” one senior foreign office official told me last week. “The Germans hate him—they regard him as a moral affront.”
“Why was he appointed?” asked one ambassador—a genuine question from a baffled onlooker. Another, when I asked what he thought of Johnson, simply laughed.
Nor did Johnson command respect from those who worked closely with him. “He’s just a joke,” said one former senior foreign office official who knows him well. “He has no moral compass and he’s loose with facts. He’s a figure of embarrassment.”
“He has been a useless foreign secretary,” said another former senior government official. “His bluster and banter is utterly inappropriate.”
A former head of the diplomatic service—the most senior civil servant in the foreign office—was as scathing about Johnson as a former diplomat can be.
“Frankly, in Boris Johnson, we do not have a foreign secretary who commands respect abroad,” Lord Ricketts told me last month. “They don’t get his humour and they’ve lost confidence that he’s a serious interlocutor. He is not a serious foreign policy player.”
Those attempts at humour, that bluster and banter, weren’t merely inappropriate—they also caused diplomatic incidents around the world and diminished…