The Foreign Office always used to boast – and probably still does – that it attracts only the crème de la crème to its ranks. But why would you want to join now?
It was bad enough when diplomats were described as someone sent abroad to lie for their country, but post-Brexit they are being sent abroad to make themselves a laughing stock for their country. No amount of free Ferrero Rocher at embassy parties can compensate for the hurt.
The latest humiliation for them and for the country has come in a busy week of humiliations.
First, the government decided to throw out decades of progress, persuasion and leading by example and instead to start pumping more oil and gas. This is an act of environmental vandalism that can only turn the UK from a voice of international influence to a Billy No-Mates.
Then the government had to make a humiliating U-turn and abandon hopes to separate its product standards from the EU’s. Negating in one stroke much of the so-called argument for Brexit.
And finally, the government has been caught approaching individual EU member states to try to start talks on trade barriers and border checks with them directly. The European Commission (EC) has had to remind the UK government that it alone deals with trade matters and that it has signed a deal with the UK which makes this perfectly clear. The UK can’t approach countries individually and countries can’t negotiate individually. That’s how being in a club or union works.
Just consider what all of this is doing to the reputation of the country and its soft power in the world. This is not just a matter of the EU and its member states holding their heads in their hands or waiting until we have left the room before having a good laugh.
They and every other country in the world will be looking at what the UK is doing and trying to do and making up their minds about whether the UK can now be trusted, is worth talking to, has less influence and power. In short, are we a serious nation any longer?
The answer is that increasingly the UK is not a country that they need to pay anything like as much attention to. It is appallingly run, its diplomats are desperately trying to teach ministers the very basics of international relations and power and failing, it threatens to break international law, it is threatening to withdraw from the world’s human rights conventions, and it has little or no idea how the EU works, even after more than 40 years of membership.
Combine this with a declining defence budget, an anaemic economy and cuts to foreign aid, and you have the perfect picture of a nation in self-created international decline.
Meanwhile, our diplomats try to hold the line, defend the indefensible, try to reassure our friends that this is a temporary phenomenon and warn our enemies that we are still to be respected, if not feared.
And all the while the government they are loyally trying to support and protect from the worst aspects of their own stupidity, is calling them the Blob and a woke bunch of Remainiac traitors.
When all our friends around the world from America to Japan and Australia to Canada, warned us that Brexit would be bad for the UK, that we should stay in the EU and that they didn’t want us to leave, they were right.
This is what they feared, this is what they knew would happen.
Even the crème de la crème can do nothing to stop the lies, the self-delusion, the breaking of norms and conventions we helped create, and the almost painful level of stupidity on display. They are fighting in vain; they can do little to slow down let alone stop, the inevitable decline of influence and power.