Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Could Labour give the Boris Johnson row the attention it deserves?

What could Jeremy Corbyn attack Theresa May with this week at Prime Minister’s Questions? The Labour leader has already had a go at the crisis in social care funding, which the government is trying to patch up this week by raising the council tax precept from 2 per cent to 4 per cent. He could have another go, given what has long been a serious issue is starting to become a political row too. The problem is that the Labour leader so often retreats to social care and the NHS as a comfort blanket that his attacks are a little blunter than they could be.

One row that really hasn’t had as much attention as it deserves is the one over Boris Johnson’s remarks about Saudi Arabia. It is quite extraordinary that a Prime Minister would slap down a Foreign Secretary in public by saying that he was only expressing his personal view. By convention, no Cabinet Minister has a ‘personal view’: they represent the view of the British Government, and in no job is this more important than in the Foreign Office. Differences in ‘personal views’ between the Chancellor and Prime Minister might excite interest in Westminster, but a ‘personal view’ expressed by the man whose job it is to represent Britain across the world is dangerous.

Given Corbyn agrees with the ‘personal view’ of Johnson on Saudi Arabia, it wouldn’t be so difficult for him to raise the row and ask whether the Government can really work when Number 10 is all but suggesting that the Foreign Secretary isn’t actually doing his job properly. That doesn’t mean, however, that he will, in which case the Government is very lucky to have the Opposition that it does: this row deserves to be much bigger than it is.

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