The trouble with inviting former prime ministers back into the cabinet is that it is hard for the country not to look at the work of the former PM and compare it with that of his new boss.
However, the PM probably thought he was on safe ground when he appointed David Cameron as foreign secretary. A failed PM who lost the Brexit referendum and has spent seven years in the wilderness does not sound like much of a threat.
But all at once there is a sense of maturity and common sense in the conduct of the country’s diplomacy.
Look at Gibraltar, it voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU and has been in purgatory ever since, with no real solution agreed about its border with Spain, or its relationship with the EU. Seven years later, Lord Cameron gets his feet under the desk at the FO and all of sudden it looks like a deal is on the cards.
Compare that to the warm and mature welcome that Rishi Sunak gave to the Greek PM, in town for talks earlier this week. Kyriakos Mitsotakis made one appearance on TV and was asked about the Elgin Marbles, the source of a long-running dispute between London and Athens. He answered politely.
The British PM then promptly threw his toys out of the pram, claiming that Greece had promised not to mention the return of what it quite rightly calls the Parthenon marbles during the trip, itself a rather dodgy and unlikely claim. But calling off talks with the Greek leader as a result of one question on Sunday TV was so childishly inept as to seriously raise questions about the PM’s gravitas.
To add insult to injury Mr Mitsotakis was offered a chance to talk to deputy PM Oliver Dowden instead. A more pathetic and deliberately offensive snub to a foreign leader is hard to imagine.
The Greek PM quite rightly turned down the offer, but did stay long enough to have a nice chat with Labour leader Keir Starmer. Who looked diplomatic and statesmanlike as a result, mainly because he was.
Now Greece is not the biggest country in Europe or the most important, but it is a long-term ally of the UK, it is an important member of NATO and in the frontline of the immigration issues which dominate Conservative thinking. It is also a member of the EU and we need all the friends in the EU we can get.
Deliberately snubbing the Greek nation for no good reason, is therefore crass and incompetent.
It makes the UK and the PM look petty and small-minded – a real problem, especially for Sunak. He has just appointed someone to the Foreign Office who can actually talk politely to his counterparts.
You don’t have to be a new Bismark or Talleyrand to make Rishi Sunak look like a lightweight, even Lord Cameron can do that.
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