Evening Standard Comment: Boris Johnson’s chaos-loving management style doesn’t work in a crisis

·2-min read
 (Andy Davey)
(Andy Davey)

The Prime Minister is no fan of reshuffles and his aversion appears to be for two reasons. First, he is not fond of confrontation or making powerful critics on the backbenches.

The second reason is he enjoys chaos, as Dominic Cummings said of him. Yet such a management theory does not work in a crisis, where you need strong, experienced voices around that a leader respects and will listen to.

Johnson’s brief time as foreign secretary was not regarded as a success. Indeed, we have little proof that he has a clear idea of what he thinks UK foreign policy should be, other than to leave the European Union, which he has achieved.

The pandemic has understandably occupied much government bandwidth, yet without it we would still be shackled with a Cabinet unable or unwilling to speak truth to power.

There is a broader cost to this malaise, and to Raab’s dereliction of duty in reportedly not making the call to try and save the lives of Afghan interpreters who have assisted British troops.

What now is UK foreign policy? Not only with regards to Afghanistan, but our broad strategic goals?

At present all we have is “Global Britain”, a campaigning phrase, not an overarching policy framework. For decades, UK foreign policy has been to influence the United States by seeking to be its closest, most reliable ally.

These bonds were forged not only through military conflicts but our ability to act as a bridge between Europe and the US via our EU membership. If Johnson were capable of candour, he would tell us that that option no longer exists.

It was easy during the Trump years to try to wait things out and hope for normality to return to the White House. Yet Biden’s Afghanistan policy is merely an extension of his predecessor’s.

This year should have been a significant year for Britain on the world stage. Chair of the G7, host nation of the COP26 climate summit. Yet to make a success of such opportunities requires time, investment and a clear understanding of what our overarching aims are.

The UK has much to offer the world but without a coherent foreign policy, other than an ideological aversion to EU regulation, its unclear what we stand for or hope to achieve.

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