The announcement of Boris Johnson as the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has come as a surprise to many people within and outside Great Britain. This choice by the new British Prime Minister Theresa May clearly demonstrates her desire to mend the rift between ‘the remainers and the brexiteers’ starting from the corridors of power. However, her choice of Boris Johnson for this particular role is a bit worrying, I found myself wondering if the role wasn’t that significant or if she had some private Intel on Boris Johnson’s abilities which the public isn’t aware of.


The Secretary of State is responsible for the work of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, with a particular focus on policy strategy, honors, Whitehall liaison and cyber-security (GOV.UK). In simple terms, the foreign secretary is responsible for the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), and promotion of British interests on the international stage. He/she is charged with the responsibility of maintaining international relationships on a global front, a role that requires a great deal of diplomacy, subtlety and a certain level of brute-ness; essentially the perfect salesman. In street terms, he is responsible for scratching the backs of other foreign ministers with the hopes that they reciprocate the favor when necessary. This is a very important if Great Britain is to have any chance at normalcy post-Brexit.


The nature of the foreign secretary’s role often requires that they spend a lot of time in departure lounges and foreign capitals, however, they must never become estranged from Britain by the constant travel neither should they become hermits secluded in their London office, either extreme will result in failure. Over time the global landscape has changed world power has tilted in different directions and is still subject to further change. This fact changes the nature of power and authority the foreign secretary can yield, hence it is important that whoever steps into the role of the foreign minister is someone who isn’t hung up on the past, but able to still maintain the British identity, someone who is able to play according to the new rules.


In an interview with Jonathan Powell (May, 2013), Lord Carrington a former Foreign secretary said: "For somebody like me who's very old and was brought up in the days when most of the world was colored red [the hue of the Empire in atlases], I find it very sad and humiliating that we aren't the great power we used to be. But it's no good being nostalgic about it."


A British foreign secretary can no longer throw his or her weight about, their task now is to build alliances and persuade others to support our position. Each foreign secretary brings a different take to the job, Sir Geoffrey Howe and Jack Straw, both lawyers, were said to prepare as if they were getting ready for a day in court, while Lord Carrington adopted a more languid style, feigning ignorance about a subject until his victim had walked into an elegant trap.


As discussions on the choice of Boris Johnson as the foreign secretary unfolded he was often referred to as the ultimate salesman. Observing him on the political scene weeks before the EU referendum one would certainly agree with these assertions, a salesman with the ability to not only engage the target market but also ensures a sales at the close of business. His inability to read his colleagues and other Brexiteers motives however proves that their is a chink in his armor. He might be able to relate with the man on the street, he needs to become more familiar with the craziness that is called politicians. Boris Johnson might not look the part, but he certainly has the required skill sets for the job, maybe, this time, he should hold his cards closer to his chest.


Congratulations Boris Johnson, I hope you excel if only to prove that success in politics does not always necessitate deceit.

 

Published by Chioma Nwafor