Posts Tagged ‘foreign affairs’

The prime minister’s human shield – William Hague – is going nowhere.

11/03/2011, 08:07:50 AM

by Jamie Reed

As speculation intensifies in westminster-media circles about the future of foreign secretary, William Hague, a reality check is called for. For now, at least, William Hague is unsackable.

To be clear, experts in the field and foreign office officials must cringe in times of international crisis as Westminster politicians and commentators alike become lay-experts in diplomacy and the detailed realities of any given troubled region. This in mind, it doesn’t stop the often ugly truth from emerging.

Gordon Brown was rarely more prophetic than when he declared of our vainglorious prime minister that this is “no time for a novice”. But a novice is what the country has been landed with and what the rest of the international community now has been burdened with as well.

A laconic Hague has been blamed for the shambolic, shameful and humiliating response from Britain to the crisis in Libya – yet Hague’s performance illustrates the behaviour of a man not in control of Britain’s response. Not because he lacks the ability, but because an undeserving prime minister – driven by domestic political considerations instead of international policy objectives – is desperate to cast himself as a world leader and take control of affairs of which he has little understanding. As a result, his diplomatic ineptitude has been laid bare.

Cameron’s late response to the crisis (despite being in neighbouring Egypt at the onset) led to the bellowing of naive threats which were as excruciating in their delivery as they were destructive in their consequence. It was left to the foreign secretary to attempt to clean up after this intemperate and ill-advised outburst, with the US also slapping down the would-be world leader. It was No.10, too, who authorised the recent ludicrous deployment of the SAS, again to counter-productive and even humiliating effect. Little wonder that President Obama believes our dear Prime Minister to be a “light weight”.

It is painful for MPs on all sides of the House to watch Britain’s diplomatic standing cheapened in the way in which it has been in recent weeks. In his increasingly embarassing attempts to emulate Tony Blair, Cameron has exposed himself as a third division Anthony Eden. Hague is Cameron’s first and last line of defence in foreign affairs. His removal would expose the prime ministers naked incompetence. This latest human shield will be around for a while yet.

Jamie Reed is Labour MP for Copeland and a shadow environment minister.

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