Truss Diplomacy – 1 September 2022


Just when you thought there couldn’t be anyone worse along comes Liz Truss. Poised to replace Boris Johnson she seems set to prove that the outgoing Prime Minister’s not the nadir in post holders at 10 Downing Street. It’s not just the economic policies set to crash the economy and unleash misery across the land which show that. 

It’s equally been her performance as Foreign Secretary, a post which as with that of PM was once held by Johnson. His tenure was pretty gaffe stricken. Endangering, Nazamin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. She was put in danger by ill-judged comments made by Johnson when Foreign Secretary. He also had to be cut short by the British Ambassador in Myanmar when reciting Kipling, with all its redolence of Empire and racism. And there was more. 

But those who thought that his gaffe-stricken tenure couldn’t be surpassed in lack of tact and diplomacy are discovering that they are. Her comments about President Macron were scandalous. Asked if he was friend or foe, she replied that “the Jury’s out”. Sorry, just no. That’s rude, arrogant and simply unacceptable. 

If that was a corporate Chief Executive they’d be out on their ear. If it was a career diplomat, they’d be winging their way home.  There was a time in ages gone by when wars started over less. I’m old enough to recall President De Gaulle requiring to leave Canada for his “Vive Le Quebec Libre”. 

But times have moved on and alliances have been forged. Moreover, both economically and with a war In Europe you’d have thought collaboration necessary and therefore diplomacy essential. Macron showed how you can respond waspishly but within the constraints of diplomatic language where every word has both meaning and nuances aplenty. His slap down was to say, “the United Kingdom is a friend of France regardless of its Leaders… and sometimes despite and beyond its leaders.”  

But Truss’s petulant comments epitomize the arrogance and British exceptionalism that’s now the hallmark of the Tory Government. There was an interesting article in a leading London financial paper that was commenting on her tenure as Foreign Secretary and especially in its relationship with the USA. 

Brexiteers believe that they’ve sailed off into a brave new world unshackled from slothful old Europe and where a rejuvenated Britain can set the world to rights with their trusty ally the USA. But the special relationship has long since ceased to apply, if it ever did. Instead, the article referred to comments made by Truss where the USA has looked askance.  

In April she apparently called for a Marshall Plan for the Ukraine. Now the Marshall plan post WW2 was wholly paid for by the USA and she didn’t seem to be expecting to put her hand in her pocket this time. No wonder American eyebrows were raised. As if exemplifying the Macron comments the report suggested senior US administration officials viewed her approach as “very black and white” and “where her rhetoric has frequently outstripped British commitments and American policy”.  

And that’s even before mentions made of the Northern Irish Protocol. If she triggers Article 16, she’ll find the USA and President Macron ramping up diplomatic pressure not just language. Aye, just when you thought things couldn’t get worse along comes Liz Truss.