Boris turns on the charm in Brussels

Boris Johnson used his best assets to win over a room full of frowning foreign ministers.


Boris Johnson: "Il est formidable"

Some may think the decision to appoint Boris Johnson as foreign secretary proves the truth of the famous quote that "history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce". After all, the new prime minister openly mocked Johnson's negotiating abilities in her leadership campaign, noting that "the last time he did a deal with the Germans, he came back with three nearly new water cannon".

As for his diplomacy he recently won a Spectator contest to compose an obscene limerick about Turkey's President Erdogan, and has raised eyebrows by apparently confusing that country with Egypt during Monday's press conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

However, writes Tom Goodenough in The Spectator, while Johnson's humour "might be edgy", in fact, "he's the perfect choice for the role" of foreign secretary. The fact is and the media scrum that greeted his EU summit debut proves it "people are genuinely interested in what Boris has to say". He is an "A-list" politician in a way that "a safe pair of hands" such as Philip Hammond just isn't. And he is putting across a message that those around the world need to hear that "Britain is open for business".

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And after an initially "frosty" reception from EU foreign ministers at the summit,Johnson "turned on his charm and self-mocking humour to win over new colleagues", says Bruno Waterfield in The Times. Even the French were impressed, when Boris spoke in "eloquent" French following a minute's silence for the victims in Nice. When Jean-Marc Ayrault, Boris's French counterpart, who had days before branded him "a liar", was asked if Boris had apologised for comparing the EU to Nazi Germany, Ayrault dismissed the idea, saying nobody in Brussels had taken it seriously.

Jos Manuel Garca-Margallo, Spain's foreign minister, said of Boris, "I found him so calm, he is a talkative man. I've found him fun" this from a man who is "at loggerheads with Britain over the future of Gibraltar". But then, Boris "is a man with many masks", as one EU diplomat remarked. "We have seen the clown. Today we saw the Etonian working hard to be a statesman." Perhaps Boris's biggest fan was to be found in the foreign minister from Luxembourg. Despite being no friend to euroscepticism, Jean Asselborn was heard to coo to colleagues, "Il est formidable".

However, there are consolations for those who would rather revel in Johnson's discomfort: he has had to give up his column in The Daily Telegraph that "was earning him around £275,000 a year", notes James Tapsfield in the Daily Mail. And he will be forced to share Chevening, the foreign secretary's grace-and-favour country house, with fellow Leave campaigners David Davis and Liam Fox. Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron quickly dubbed the arrangement "Brexit Towers" and pondered "which of the trio is going to mention the war".

However, anyone who fears for the trio's welfare (and sanity) should rest assured, says The Guardian's Rowena Mason: Chevening "has 115 rooms, so it should be possible for them all to stay in the official residence at the same time".

Westminster gossip: Brexit's "political knuckle-duster"

His reputation for being a "political knuckle-duster" earned him the nicknames "Charming Bastard" and "Monsieur Non" when he was briefly John Major's Europe minister in the 1990s. Back then, he joked to his French opposite, lisabeth Guigou, that although he could speak a little French, he would no longer do so. Guigou misunderstood, and used French when she didn't want Davis to understand. "'It was very useful', he smirks."

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell nailed it when he labelled those trying to depose hapless Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn "f***ing useless", says Nick Ferrari in the Sunday Express. "The botched attempt to dump a leader who makes Neil Kinnock look like a master tactician was as ham-fisted as Roy Hodgson's football management."

Certainly when it comes to own-goals, the Labour leader wannabes have excelled themselves this week. Angela Eagle was broadcast live in the Palace of Westminster shouting "porridge!" having been asked for a mic test. She then went on to announce her decision to drop out of the leadership race, leaving the field open for Owen Smith.

Smith committed his own blunder, the Daily Mirror reports. Quizzed on Good Morning Britain over his previous role as a lobbyist for drug giant Pfizer, the former shadow pensions secretary responded angrily to a joke that had missed its mark: "That was called a joke, Susanna. I haven't actually tried Viagra. I've never needed to."

Scottish Ukip leader David Coburn has no time for challengers, notes The Metro. "It can't be that difficult to get that kind of money in this day and age," said Coburn, responding to a row over needing to stump up £5,000 to mount an official leadership bid. "We've got some total to**ers in our party who are only out for themselves."