Tom Tugendhat: 'It would be great to be prime minister'

PM and Deputy PM outside Number 10

Tom Tugendhat, the Conservative rising star who chairs the Commons foreign affairs committee, has said it would be great to be prime minister, foreign secretary or defence secretary one day.

The MP for Tonbridge and Malling, who is tipped for promotion at the next reshuffle, did not hold back about his ambitions in an interview with House magazine, although he said he was happy “for the next few years” chairing his select committee.

Asked about the top jobs, he said: “I will serve at whatever level I’m asked to. It’s a huge privilege to be serving, because parliament has asked me to, as chair of the foreign affairs committee. That’s absolutely my focus for the next few years anyway.

“Would it be great to be PM? Yep, it would be. Would it be great to be foreign secretary? Fantastic. Would it be great to be defence secretary? Wonderful. Would it be great to be a minister of any kind? Yes, because all of those opportunities to serve are very much winning a lottery in what is frankly a fantastic opportunity to serve our country in a different way,” he said.

Tugendhat has been the subject of speculation about his future potential after he won the chairmanship of the foreign affairs committee earlier this year, ousting his colleague, Crispin Blunt.

Now in charge of scrutinising the work of Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, he suggested the Foreign Office needed to be “cool-headed, stern and strategic” about policy in a way that does not always combine well with humour.

Asked about Johnson, he said: “He’s certainly got a lot of passion for the United Kingdom and has a way of expressing himself which certainly carries a lot of noise. There are many people who don’t understand quite how difficult it is to translate humour, because humour is fundamentally cultural. It is really, really hard to do cross-cultural humour.

“I just think that at the moment, when what we really need is a very, very cool-headed, stern and strategic look at our foreign policy and our alliances, what we need is a very, very cold and considered approach to our foreign strategy.

“I think there are ways of doing diplomacy. I’ve done it in Afghanistan, in Iraq and Saudi [Arabia] and across parts of Africa and most of the Middle East, and I just think that it’s very, very hard to make humour work in international environments, which is why very few serious politicians try it.”

He also called on the UK to develop a foreign policy that put values above “raw economics”, but gave an equivocal answer on whether it was wrong to sell arms to Saudi Arabia in light of its role in the Yemeni conflict.

“I certainly don’t think it’s wrong to sell arms. But we must be realistic as to what we’re doing when we do sell arms. And part of that has to be within a context of, as I say, a rules-based system,” he said.

“Saudi Arabia has caused some issues for us in that, and other nations have too. But it’s certainly not wrong to enable countries to defend themselves.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Rowena Mason Deputy political editor, for theguardian.com on Thursday 26th October 2017 20.00 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010