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30th Jul 2018

In defence of Jeremy Hunt

He's got a hard job alright


MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 06: Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt delivers his keynote speech to delegates during the Conservative Party Conference on October 6, 2015 in Manchester, England. Home Secretary Theresa May addressed delegates on day three of the Conservative Party conference at Manchester Central and warned that it is "impossible to build a cohesive society" and the UK needs to have an immigration limit. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

He’s got a hard job alright

We’ve all been there. It’s your first trip to China as Foreign Secretary, you’re meeting with the Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and you’re desperate as hell to initiate some small talk.

Whilst your predecessor was known for his charm and quips as much as his private phone calls with fascists, you’re more at home quietly dismantling the NHS than you are charming foreign dignitaries.

So spare a thought for Jeremy Hunt who today found himself in those exact circumstances.

“My wife is Japanese,” Hunt offered as his opening gambit, before remembering that his wife of nine years is Chinese. “My wife is Chinese,” he quickly added. “That’s a terrible mistake to make.”

But is it, Jeremy? Is it that bad? An honest mistake is what it was. I’d challenge anyone to successfully remember their wife’s nationality when they’ve been so busy running the NHS into the ground.

Sure, some will get a couple of laughs out of your mistake, but in the best case scenario, you would have got your wife’s nationality right, and the Chinese delegation would have thrown their hands up in celebration, before announcing via an interpreter: “WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY SO? WE WOULD’VE SIGNED THOSE TRADE DEALS MUCH SOONER!”

Perhaps this is a sign of things to come. Perhaps we’ll see Hunt helping to sell British goods to Argentina, for example, by telling the Argentinian president how much he admires Neymar Jr. Or perhaps we could build stronger ties with Norway because the Foreign Office is decked out in IKEA furniture.

This is anecdote diplomacy. Welcome to the future.