These big geo-political gatherings are always a total sausage fest, but this year that feels particularly apt given the ding-dong around the great chilled meat row. It’s less West Wing, more Father Ted. Of course, all eyes will be on US President Joe Biden and how he is seen to get on with Boris Johnson.
Things haven’t exactly got off to a flying start, with reports of Biden ordering US officials to issue Johnson with a rebuke for imperiling the Northern Ireland peace process over Brexit. Although this is contested by the Americans, there’s no doubt there are tensions over the Good Friday Agreement.
Does this mean the special relationship has already soured? Probably not. I think Biden is too skilled and experienced an operator to end up having a stooshie with the British Prime Minister on his first visit to the UK. Biden will play a canny game.
He is expected to make clear his serious displeasure at the Northern Irish situation, but he will no doubt be courteous and collegiate with Johnson when they meet. He is more likely to try and privately charm and persuade Johnson on the art of compromise and consensus, a skill for which he was famed for over his many decades in US politics, and which ultimately helped him beat Donald Trump.
This will be a fascinating encounter and much needed for the good of British politics, as there is not a single senior figure in the UK who can sit down with our Prime Minister and have that conversation.
Johnson famously goes it alone, has fallen out with his most trusted advisers and famously finished off all his senior One Nation Conservative colleagues who could have provided him with wise counsel. The parallels with Donald Trump are there for all to see.
After a bruising period of introspection and charged nationalist campaigning around Brexit, I hope the G7 and meeting Biden in particular will remind Johnson that Britain should care about its place and standing in the world and that a crude, belligerent and increasingly desperate version of Britain First is the wrong horse to ride. Whether it’s compromise on Northern Ireland with the EU or revisiting foreign aid cuts or sending the message that we are prepared to embrace multilateralism again and stand by democracies who we have more in common with. More Biden, less Orban.
I also hope that Biden can persuade Johnson to step away from his and his team’s Trump-like obsession with stoking needless, exhausting and dangerous culture wars which are ripping through these shores and storing up huge trouble.
I sincerely hope that spending some time with the US President who is good company but who is also a true global statesman – who carries himself with decency and integrity as well as being a successful politician delivering on what matters right now – will have a good influence on Boris Johnson. I hope Biden can civilise Johnson.