Boris Johnson has never been one of nature’s diplomats. Unconventional, irreverent, Brexit-backing and norm-defying, the blonde bombshell’s two-year tenure at the Foreign Office is now remembered as one of the less happy periods of his political life. Still, even cynical veterans of the ambassadorial circuit were left unimpressed with the Prime Minister’s performance at the Trooping the Colour ceremony a fortnight ago.
This occasion is treated by overseas plenipotentiaries as the closest thing that the UK has to a national day: the equivalent of Bastille Day in France or the Fourth of July in America – especially so in a Platinum Jubilee year. So the various high commissioners and ambassadors were somewhat disappointed at their treatment on the day itself. Having rocked up before the ceremony to a Downing Street reception, the assembled bigwigs were greeted by the decidedly unglamorous figure of Lord Ahmad, a junior minister in the Foreign Office, rather than the PM whose attendance was expected by many.
Johnson didn’t appear in the stands until shortly before the Trooping proceedings began. One onlooker complained that he ‘didn’t speak to anyone’ and then disappeared quickly afterwards, angering some from overseas who were keen to secure valuable face time. While the Prime Minister was facing a vote of confidence at the time, some pointed out that the national interest ought to trump that of his party. A source told Mr S that: ‘When Margaret Thatcher faced such a vote, she still went to Paris to end the Cold War. So much for global Britain.’
Road closures around Whitehall added to the embarrassment – something which no one within No. 10 or the Foreign Office appeared to have anticipated. Furious foreign and Commonwealth Heads of Mission who attended were left standing around waiting for more than an hour-and-a-half as Johnson whizzed off in his motorcade. Indeed, the Foreign Office was so embarrassed by the delays in the sweltering heat that it has now written to those affected, according to multiple sources.
When asked by Mr S, the department declined to provide a quote on the record. Quelle surprise…