Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

We Don't Do Foreign

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

We Don't Do Foreign

Article excerpt

One week, the PM is taking arms dealers on a package holiday to the Gulf; the next, he is lecturing people on the world stage. No one can claim that our David is not prepared to play many roles but, that said, some suit him better than others.

A particular weakness is foreign affairs. The last time I heard him speak animatedly about global politics was when, bored out of our teenage minds, we killed a year or two playing Risk-a game at which, perhaps tellingly, he did not excel.

He is resolutely monolingual. And he spent his gap year in Hong Kong only because the sheep farmer in New Zealand with whom he was hoping to spend six months committed suicide at the last minute.

This, so far, has not proven to be a handicap. Indeed, it was seen as an advantage by the "What would Blair do?" obsessives who had used their accumulated wisdom to conclude that the Iraq war did not play well at the polls for TB.

Just as Alastair Campbell used to say "we don't do God", so it was that smug senior advisers to the future PM would say, "We don't do foreign."

It was a reticence that did us no harm during the grindingly parochial election campaign. And, having finagled power, it was only sensible that a party with no foreign policy should appoint a do-nothing foreign secretary.

William has many qualities. It is just that, for a number of years now, he has declined to use them. He was perfectly suited for the job. The square had been circled And then, because even if you "don't do foreign, foreign can do you", there was the Jasmine Revolution, followed by the Lotus Revolution, with all manner of other storms in assorted varieties of teacup forecast to follow. …

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