The problem with Boris Johnson, one senior official who worked closely with him at the foreign office once told me, is that he is “very enthusiastic about what’s in front of him at the moment.” Diplomats who worked with him were endlessly frustrated that he would, as another official put it, “jump from one thing to another.” He reacted to events, but showed little interest in developing a strategy.
It is perhaps not surprising then that a man who left no legacy at the foreign office has shown a similar lack of interest in foreign policy now he has moved across Whitehall to No 10. In his first big foreign policy test as prime minister—the assassination of Iran’s military leader, Qassem Soleimani, and its global fallout—Johnson has been “leading from behind,” Peter Ricketts, a former head of the foreign office, told me. “I’m not sure it works so well,” he added with diplomatic understatement. John Casson, who spent several years as David Cameron’s foreign policy adviser, is similarly unconvinced. “What is his approach to the Middle East? His positioning has been scattered, reactive and random.”
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