Boris Johnson hits back at Tom Tugendhat – and defends joke diplomacy

Written by David Singleton on 1 November 2017 in Diary

The foreign secretary said that jokes can be an ‘effective way of getting your diplomatic message across’

When Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat recently observed that humour doesn’t tend to translate well on the international stage, it was pretty clear who he had in mind.

"It is really, really hard to do cross-cultural humour,” advised Tugendhat, who is chair of the foreign affairs select committee, in a not-so-coded attack on Boris Johnson.

But the foreign secretary really did not appreciate being lectured to by the rising star Tory MP, it seems.

Appearing before the House of Commons foreign affairs select committee, Johnson took the opportunity to hit back at the chairman for subtly slamming his modus operandi.

The foreign secretary seized his chance after Tugendhat made a pointed reference to a Johnson joke about Italy’s prosecco exports to the UK.

With a smile almost disguising his disdain for a fellow MP who has been tipped as future Tory leadership contender, the foreign secretary responded archly:

"Now Mr Chairman we must be careful of cross cultural jokes.

"I think actually telling jokes is often a very effective way of getting your diplomatic message across, I just say that in parenthesis.

"And sometimes people greatly appreciate that you are talking to them in that informal way while subtly getting your point across.

"And actually it can be a little bit condescending to think that they don’t get the point."

The BBC has the footage here.

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