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Beware Conservative complacency abroad

Conservative ministers are certainly collecting air miles at the moment. David Cameron announced some of his token measures on Calais a few weeks ago from south-east Asia. George Osborne is carooming around northern Scandinavia pretending to renegotiate our relationship with the EU. And Phillip Hammond has been out visiting the new best friend of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Which is to say, unhappily, Iran.

Calais is a subject I’ve touched on already recently. Doing so, I highlighted how our government has been falling over itself to play up close working relations with their French counterparts. As I’ve pointed on in a bit of detail, this is now part of the problem. Rather than confronting the French socialist administration on the iniquity of its policy of all but waving migrants on towards Britain, Theresa May is sending our money to subsidise the shambles. Less naivety and more handbagging would have been a better bet. Small wonder that the French brief their media on their success in implicating Britain in the future management of the Calais fiasco.

But it is the pattern of Conservative naivety abroad which is starting to stand out.

The trip by Philip Hammond to reopen our embassy in Iran raised eyebrows even in the Tory press. One usually loyal newspaper observed in an editorial that the decision is ‘somewhat precipitate’. That sounds to me like a very Establishment way of wondering why we are suddenly cosying up to a notorious sponsor of international terrorism.

Mr Hammond’s explanations here are interesting. He says that the new management of the country has a ‘more nuanced approach’ than before and that mere detail such as state-funded propaganda against this country and our allies is not to be taken too seriously. Worse, we learn that Mr Hammond was personally assured by every official he met that they want nothing but warm relations. Either the Foreign Secretary is unaware that Iran is a dangerous theocracy in which officials who speak out of line are apt never to be heard from again, or he knows this perfectly well but thinks it is harmless to blather on misleadingly to the listeners of the Today programme.

Whatever the truth, there is a pattern to be seen. Theresa May says we are working with the French on Calais. George Osborne and indeed the Prime Minister tell us we are working with our European partners on EU reform. Philip Hammond informs us that all the chaps he chatted with in Tehran were very pleasant indeed thank you very much and that we need hardly concern ourselves with their decades long record of state-sponsored murder.

I have just one comment on all this for now. When David Cameron does eventually announce his pitiful pick-and-mix of improbable promises on how the EU will change in the future – all based on the goodwill of people who owe this country nothing and do not act in our interests – remember that Conservative naivety abroad for domestic consumption here at home is nothing new at all.

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