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A Tale of Two Johnsons: The story of Britain’s preposterous Foreign Secretary

In the House of Commons debate on Syria British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson not only managed to contradict completely his own previous positions on Syria but by inciting protests against the Russian embassy behaved in a manner unfit for a British minister.

It was the best of liberations, it was the worst of crimes. It was the age of cooperation, it was the age of indictment. Half of us were fighting ISIS, half of us had no intention of doing so.

And so begins A Tale of Two Johnsons. I’m speaking of course of Boris Johnson, the UK’s Foreign Secretary whose previous triumphs in foreign affairs included insulting China at the Beijing Olympics and writing an obscene poem about the President of Turkey.

Any hope that Boris Johnson would get back in touch with his intelligent side, which judged on the basis of his old articles from the Spectator and Telegraph is one he has got, were dashed during a farcical Parliamentary debate on Syria.

The debate itself was so ill informed and sanctimonious one could be forgiven for thinking that one was watching a Hillary Clinton fundraising event.

In March of this year Boris Johnson said the following about Syria and Russia’s coordinated liberation of Palmyra from the savage grip of ISIS:

“It has been Putin who with a ruthless clarity has come to the defence of his client, and helped to turn the tide. If reports are to be believed, the Russians have not only been engaged in airstrikes against Assad’s opponents, but have been seen on the ground as well. If Putin’s troops have helped winkle the maniacs from Palmyra, then (it pains me to admit) that is very much to the credit of the Russians. They have made the West look ineffective; and so now is the time for us to make amends, and to play to our strengths.”

Now he says of Russian aid of Syria:

“There is no commensurate horror, it seems to me, among those anti-war groups. I would certainly like to see demonstrations outside the Russian embassy”.

The Russian embassy in London was quick to respond:

“Today’s parliamentary debate on Syria is depressing. The speeches of those who participated in the discussion contradict the logic of all previous decisions of the International Syria Support Group as well as UN Security Council resolutions (Britain is a member of both). USA and other members of the Western coalition failed to separate Jabhat Al-Nusra from the so-called “moderate opposition” they work with. The jihadists keep terrorising the civilians and fighting, rejecting cease-fire and humanitarian aid deliveries. Britain’s logic implies putting an end to fighting terrorists and their allies. So, UK was not ready to support the plan of UN Special envoy Staffan de Mistura, aimed at alleviating the humanitarian situation in Aleppo. Our logic is different. Fight on to destroy the jihadists, sparing the civilians. Syria is going through the hard process of defeating terrorists. Pity that the British parliamentarians placed themselves on the wrong side of history this time.”

I personally cannot recall a time in British history where a government minister urged people to protest the embassy of another nation. It really is a new low for a country that once  correctly prided itself on dignity in the face of adversity and a stiff upper lip in the face of disagreement.

The history books will note that this is a moment when Britain went hysterical.  Perhaps it is more accurate to say, it is the moment when Boris Johnson went Samantha Power.

This of course is the same Boris Johnson who was caught admitting that he hoped the Brexit campaign which he agitated for would lose.

He clearly is the most shameless kind of opportunist, but this time he has miscalculated his words.

One has reached the point where Nigel Farage is interestingly a man who articulates British public opinion better than almost anyone in front line politics.

He has said that Britain should stay out of the Syrian conflict and focus on matters at home.

Indeed, throughout the Brexit campaign there was much to admire about Farage, with the colossal exception of his scapegoating of European people for the crisis of Brussels governance.  The Brexit campaign was wrong to conflate Europeans living in Britain who contribute to society with the true issue that British voters feared: an irresponsible Angela Merkel style refugee policy – not the Polish man running a successful business.

Be that as it may, when it comes to Syria Farage has been consistent and has got it right, whilst Boris Johnson has just found another cause to betray.

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