‘Court jester’ Boris Johnson feels the heat over Russia sanctions call

Written by David Singleton on 12 April 2017 in Diary

The foreign secretary has been criticised by Tim Farron... and The Daily Telegraph.

Boris Johnson has denied he suffered a "defeat" after the G7 group of nations rejected his proposal for sanctions against Russia – but his friends in the press do not agree.

The foreign secretary’s plan was put forward at the G7 summit in Italy in the wake of a deadly chemical attack that is believed to have been carried out by Moscow's ally, Syria.

After Johnson failed to secure the backing of the rest of the G7 for further sanctions, he denied he had suffered a defeat. The foreign secretary claimed there was support for sanctions if further evidence of the chemical attack were gathered.

But Lib Dem leader Tim Farron was quick to call it a "failure of British diplomacy". He also claimed Johnson was a "court jester" who was not being taken seriously on the global stage.

Tory-supporting newspapers have not used the same language as the Lib Dem leader, but the Telegraph and the Times have both signalled their frustration with the foreign secretary's conduct.

The Telegraph has said Johnson must learn not to make "idle threats". The paper’s leader column says it is unsurprising that that “Johnson’s first big foray into geopolitical diplomacy foundered, partly because the ground was not adequately prepared, though he can take some credit for bringing the US more into line with Britain’s approach.”

It adds: "It is also a salutary lesson for Mr Johnson: by all means seek to make President Putin aware that his interests are better served by dumping Assad; but only threaten to wield the stick when it is already in your hand."

The Times is similarly unimpressed, stating that while Johnson's approach is the right one, the foreign secretary has "allowed himself to look isolated".

It's leader column states: "Recent events have given the unsettling impression that Mr Johnson was making foreign policy on the hoof. Downing Street initially shied away from endorsing his remarks. A subsequent statement after a phone call with the White House prompted the prime minister to make a more robust statement, though it still did not echo Mr Johnson’s call for sanctions explicitly.

"Contrary to the normal conventions of summitry, Mr Johnson also failed to secure the backing of the rest of the G7 for further sanctions before announcing his position."

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