Theresa May pulled a surprise by appointing Boris Johnson as her foreign secretary and the media and commentators today have been full of his previous “gaffes” and outrageous statements and how he is going to have to apologise. Everybody seems certain he is carrying baggage. The French foreign minister has been scathing about the appointment.
But I think they are all wrong. What the media is considering Boris Johnson’s baggage is actually ammunition that he can use.
Boris Johnson does not need to apologise for anything he may have said in the past. It is those who have to deal with him, in his new appointment, who have to come to terms with his previous statements. In fact, if they start their interaction with the new UK Foreign Secretary by referring to the statements he may have made in his previous avatars, they are going to hand the high ground to him.
Especially in a Europe after the Brexit vote, other Foreign Ministers cannot be seen either to be bullying the UK or to be “punishing” Boris Johnson (Joris Bonsson sounds so much better). He starts the negotiating game with a good lead and a proven, popular mandate which none of the EU bureaucrats or other foreign ministers have. He has “democracy” on his side. Jean-Claude Juncker must dread the prospect of negotiating against Boris Johnson. Looking at his so called “gaffes” only convinces me that he has no need to actually apologise for anything. At any rate, he can use an apology – if ever necessary – as a negotiating tool to be used at a time of his choosing.
I think Theresa May’s appointment of Boris Johnson could well be an even more inspired move than she has calculated for. It will quieten down the Brexiteers and the right wing as she no doubt calculates, but I believe that Johnson’s past indiscretions are actually a strength in his future bilateral discussions outside the EU and a trump card within the EU.
He is the natural “bad cop” and if David Davis can play the “good” and very correct cop, they could run rings around the EU bureaucrats. What they are all forgetting is that when the rules do not allow expulsion, the EU bureaucrats are still bound by the rules and the difficult consensus among 27 countries, whereas the UK now has the freedom to interpret EU rules in any which way it pleases.