In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the foreign secretary intimated he was envious of the freedom with which Trump expressed his views on Twitter, despite the intense criticism the president has faced on his use of the network.
He said: “Donald Trump’s approach to politics has been something that has gripped the imagination of people around the world. He has engaged people in politics in a way that we haven’t seen for a long time, with his tweets and all the rest of it.
“I certainly wouldn’t be allowed to tweet in the way that he does, much as I might like to. I’m seeing my Foreign Office minders looking extremely apprehensive here.”
The timing of Johnson’s remarks might explain why his aides were looking so anxious. Criticism of Trump’s use of Twitter reached new intensity in the last week after he launched a crude attack on TV host Mika Brzezinski, whom he described as “bleeding badly” from a facelift.
Johnson claimed the UK had been a restraining influence on Trump. He said: “We in the UK do not agree, by any means, with everything that Washington currently says.
“It is very important to understand that when Theresa May goes to meet the president today, as she will in Hamburg … our role is to represent our own point of view.
“Whether it’s on Nato, climate change, the Iran nuclear accord, it is the UK that is actually helping, we think, to mitigate, to get some of those American attitudes and policies that are currently coming out of the White House into a better place. If you look at the last 12 months or so there has been a great deal of progress.”
Johnson’s apparent envy of Trump’s candour overshadowed his loyal remarks about the prime minister later in the interview and his attempts to row back on his call for the public sector pay cap to be lifted.
This week a senior government source told the Guardian Johnson was adding to cabinet appeals for the 1% ceiling on wage rises to be lifted. But in his BBC interview Johnson evaded the question of whether the cap should be lifted.
He said: “What I think, and I know my friend the chancellor thinks, is there has got to be a balance in all this. You can’t endlessly borrow, you can’t endlessly spend.
“The country has done well to cut the deficit by three-quarters in the way that we have and that leads to huge economic benefits … It is very very important that you manage your economy sensibly and don’t just go for a crazy Corbynite splurge.”
Pressed on the issue, he added: “As Philip Hammond has also said … we recognise that people are weary of restraint. We recognise that when the public sector pay review bodies report we will obviously be wanting to look at their thinking very carefully.
“Every sensible government wants to make sure that people have a well-paid secure job, that is what we want to achieve, but we have got to achieve that in a way that is fiscally sensible and responsible.”
Asked about his leadership ambitions, Johnson said there was “no vacancy” and he complemented May on the way she had recovered since the election.
He said: “There was a Conservative party event last night. Theresa May gave a fantastic speech. I was watching her and thinking what unbelievable grace and steel she has shown over the last few weeks.
“The thing did not frankly look too brilliant on the morning of June 9th. It looked very difficult. She has put things back together, she has got the show on road, she is delivering a stable government as she said she would ,and we are getting on with it.”
Johnson said a Tory leadership race was “the last thing people want”. He added: “What they want to see is a long period of stability and calm and progress for the British people that will enable us to start to deliver.”
On North Korea, Johnson urged China to do more to intervene after Pyongyang’s successful intercontinental ballistic missile test. He said: “What the North Koreans are doing is reckless, it’s indefensible, it’s in defiance of repeated UN resolutions, it is illegal and it’s very important that the world stands together against what they are doing.
“The country with the most direct economic relationship with North Korea, that is China, has got to continue to put on the pressure. We are seeing some real changes in Beijing’s attitude to North Korea and that has got to go further.”
The foreign secretary also said the UK was trying to “dial things down” in the feud between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
This article was written by Matthew Weaver, for theguardian.com on Thursday 6th July 2017 10.28 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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