The Europhile Auberon Waugh used to argue that in an ideal world Britain would be “governed by a junta of Belgian ticket inspectors”, his point being that they would rule us in a more disinterested, and wiser, manner than elected British politicians.
Controversial though the subject is, there’s a long history of people longing for foreigners to rule them, because sometimes outsiders will look after your interests better. In the run up to the 2016 referendum I attended a farmer’s debate, during which more than one man expressed a fear of being ruled by his own countrymen; farmers were better protected in the EU because France, being such a rural country, would look after them, while their overwhelmingly urban compatriots wouldn’t.
So one of the many things that troubled me about Britain leaving the EU was that our independent foreign policy would once again be in the hands of the Foreign Office, just about the last organisation I’d trust on anything. And they seem to be fulfilling that promise.
Right now a global row is brewing, threatening a repeat of the 2005 Danish cartoons controversy in which some of the world’s worst tyrants, bigots and hypocrites attempted to bully a small social democracy — one which treated Muslims far better than any of them did — because a newspaper had dared to print some cartoons.
This time the likes of Pakistan and Turkey — two countries with dreadful human rights records, in particular their treatment of religious minorities — have their sights set on France because the president rather objected to a French schoolteacher being beheaded in the street.
Millions of Muslims placed in Chinese concentration camps = tumbleweed.
French president makes some restrained criticism of Islam = “Muslims are being treated like Jews in the 1930s”; “You are in a real sense fascists”; mass boycott of French goods.
Luckily France has the free world behind them, with strongly-worded support from Germany and backing from Italy, Greece and the Netherlands.
And from Britain… crickets, so far.
French diplomats are said to be concerned about British silence, but then Britain is currently negotiating a free trade deal with Turkey, as well as its post-Brexit deal with the EU.
Maybe the FO is just busy and we’ll get a statement later, but to not give our full backing to France right now would be deeply shameful, and, what is that word, perfidious. It would also go against the British people’s interests, which are best served by supporting our friends and neighbours, and fellow lovers of liberty, against the world’s tyrants and bullies — and I imagine that public opinion will overwhelmingly favour the French.
The British Government may or may not stand with France, but the British people certainly do.