UK prime minister Boris Johnson does not seem one of life’s natural hosts: what is known of his character is more akin to that guest who turns up three hours late and borrows money for the taxi. Hosting the G7 summit in Cornwall, of all places, also seems a temptation of fate: if Johnson gets through the weekend without joking about the locals pointing at all the aeroplanes, it will be an accomplishment. He may also find himself, like another well-known British comedy character, fielding complaints about a hotel: recent online reviews of G7 venue the Carbis Bay Estate note a closed spa and sub-optimal cocktails.
And yet Johnson is revving himself up for one of his periodic impressions of high seriousness. Johnson’s G7 agenda is heady stuff, including new commitments on carbon reduction and a pledge to help vaccinate the world against coronavirus by the end of 2022. Still, it may be pointed out that Johnson’s expansive vision of the UK’s revivified post-Brexit global leadership is difficult to square with the fatuous, populist slashing of its foreign-aid budget. Even some Tory MPs, including former prime minister Theresa May, are complaining – to the extent, indeed, of attempting a parliamentary rebellion in the week preceding the summit. This won’t bother Johnson, because nothing ever does, but hopefully will at least cause him to consider that being a great power has costs as well as benefits.
The G7 is not just the G7, of course, and for this Australian onlooker it is especially intriguing to see Scott Morrison among the coterie of not-quite-G7 leaders orbiting the summit. In normal times it would be perfectly reasonable that Australia’s prime minister attend such a wing-ding but it’s odd that Morrison does so while his fellow citizens are still substantially prevented from leaving the country. For a nation which prides itself on its egalitarian ethos, this assertion of privilege seems downright un-Australian.
Andrew Mueller is host of our freshly relaunched news show, ‘The Monocle Daily’, live at 18.00 London time every weekday on Monocle 24.