In Saudi Arabia, Boris Johnson’s opposite number has rushed to his aid, to say, as Michael Fallon did on today’s Marr show, that Boris was misquoted and they are not offended by his remarks. Sky News reported: “Boris Johnson has been given support from his Saudi Arabian counterpart, who claimed the Foreign Secretary’s words on the Saudis’ actions in the Middle East were “misconstrued”. At a press conference after meetings with King Salman and Saudi ministers on Sunday, however, Mr Johnson said he believed “in a candour in our relationship”. So candid was our Foreign Secretary, the Saudis have promised not to use barrel bombs. Boris has 500 British troops in Yemen, monotoring the Saudis to protect human rights.
In international relationships, as in personal ones, if you care about the country, you care enough to raise problematic subjects, in the hope that matters can be improved. If you don’t do this, and just fawn on the country’s leaders, your behaviour is exploitative. You don’t care enough to fight for what matters, and could be accused of using the country’s leaders.
Boris has taken an equally strong attitude with the Russians over Aleppo. After a couple of months of froideur, Sergey Lavrov has sent Boris an open invitation to visit Moscow. The Russians admire tough speaking. Andrew Mitchell, who supported Boris, said about the Saudis “We have a duty, as a candid friend, to warn them about areas of difficulty.”
The Saudis consider this incident a storm in a teacup. Mrs. May exploded at Nickie Morgan today because Mrs. Morgan criticised her leather trousers, a crime for which she is banned from Downing Streeet.
Dan Hodges compared No. 10 to the paranoid Nixon administration today. If the PM overreacts to minor incidents so violently, how is she going to cope when something really serious happens?
Update: Today Boris Johnson praised the “candour” of the relationship we have with the Saudis that means we can discuss the tough issues as well as the benefits.