After the welcome departure of London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson from the Foreign Office, some commentators might have expected Britain’s diplomatic efforts to improve under the leadership of Jeremy Hunt (the former Culture Secretary). Nothing could be worse than the tactless and damaging idiocy of Bozza, could it? Hunt’s response was to say firmly “Hold my beer”.
Hunt, making a total Hunt of himself, and not for the first time, told the Tory conference “the EU seemed to want to ‘punish’ a member for leaving, and likened their tactics to the Soviet Union” and continued “The lesson from history is clear: if you turn the EU club into a prison, the desire to get out won’t diminish - it will grow … and we won’t be the only prisoner that will want to escape” as the Guardian has reported.
And he wasn’t finished. “Because if you put a country like Britain in a corner, we don’t crumble. We fight. So as your friends of many years we say simply this: Brexit is not about whether you succeed or we succeed. Europe prospers when we both succeed and it’s time to change your approach”. The EU’s approach is that they are waiting for the UK to stop fartarsing around and put some proposals forward.
It then got worse, as today brought “Jeremy Hunt has followed up his somewhat bellicose speech to the conference yesterday - where he compared the EU to the Soviet Union - with an interview in the Daily Telegraph in which he called on Theresa May to summon up the ‘Dunkirk spirit’ to resist a bad deal from Brussels”. Oh whoopee.
If there is one thing some on the right can’t get out of their heads, it’s the insistence of banging on about World War 2, no matter how unfortunate the metaphor (Dunkirk was the last act of a humiliating retreat before the forces of the Wehrmacht).
The Guardian lost no time in reminding readers why Hunt’s schtick will have gone down like a cup of cold sick with those he should be wanting to keep sweet: “The president of the European council, Donald Tusk, was a student supporter of Poland’s anti-communist Solidarity trade union. He lost his job and was evicted from his home when Poland’s rulers cracked down on opponents in 1981”. And there was more.
“Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Estonia’s former president, criticised Hunt’s words in a series of withering tweets … [for instance] ‘I used to think foreign ministers were the smartest people in democratic governments’”. It got worse: Michael Cashman condemned the remarks, telling “The foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, just likened the EU to Soviet Russia and by so doing has shown his utter ignorance of the history of Europe and the founding in the European Union. Spiv in a suit”. Was this a little excessive?
Baiba Braze, the Latvian ambassador the UK, suggested not in her riposte to Faisal Islam of Sky News: “Dear @faisalislam , just FYI - Soviets killed, deported, exiled and imprisoned 100 thousands of Latvia's inhabitants after the illegal occupation in 1940, and ruined lives of 3 generations, while the EU has brought prosperity, equality, growth, respect. #StrongerTogether”. The news from the home front wasn’t good, either.
Peter Ricketts, former head civil servant at the FO, mused “This rubbish is unworthy of a British Foreign Secretary. The EU isn’t a Soviet-style prison. Its legal order has brought peace and prosperity after a century of war. Our decision to leave was always going to leave us worse off. The only punishment is the self-inflicted variety”. His successor, Simon Fraser, concurred.
“I agree with @LordRickettsP, my predecessor as Permanent Secretary @foreignoffice. Whatever you think about #Brexit, shocking failure of judgement for British Foreign Secretary to compare European Union with Soviet Union”.
Novelist Robert Harris reflected “I can’t think of any precedent for this. Two former professional heads of the Foreign Office publicly denouncing the language of a serving Foreign Secretary. And this is supposed to be the sensible one, not the clown he succeeded”. Quite. Hunt’s language is totally out of order.
Whether his outbursts were intended merely for conference consumption is irrelevant. Hunt knew full well that his words would be heard, or read, across the other 27 EU member states. He is, once again, behaving like a complete, well, Hunt.
As such, he is ideal Tory material. And you wonder why the country is screwed.
Enjoy your visit to Zelo Street? You can help this truly independent blog carry on talking truth to power, while retaining its sense of humour, by adding to its Just Giving page at