As I wrote here a couple of weeks ago, foreign policy is not something that tends decide one’s electoral success as a British politician. But it is surely a test of one’s statesmanship.
And if that is true, it pains me to say it but the only British political leader so far with a remotely statesmanlike response to current troubles in either Gaza or Iraq has been one David Cameron, who wrote yesterday – correctly – of the pressing need to confront the “poisonous ideology” of ISIS. And you can count on very few fingers the number of times that has been said on this blog. A comprehensive policy statement it is not, but at least it has not left him looking entirely foolish.
It is shame we cannot say that for the other party leaders. It is as if, rather than asking themselves "what can we do to resolve this major problem for the world?" the question becomes "what is my own narrow political interest, and how can I interpret the facts on the ground to defend that position?" Or rather, as we paraphrase below:
Miliband: I’m torn on all this. I mean, look at Palestine. On the one hand, Israel’s got a right to defend itself. On the other, most of my party like the Palestinians. Then again, Hamas are terrorists. Then again, the bodies are starting to pile up, there’s an election on and look what happened to our polling after Iraq. Then again, Hamas are using human shields. Then again, I don’t want people to think this is just because I’m Jewish. Then again, ISIS are bad. Then again…
Clegg: I like to take a middle line, which appeals to both left and right of my divided party, and also differentiate myself from the Tories (there is an election on, after all). Therefore, I’m going to mouth vacuous platitudes about everyone having to sit down and talk together.
Salmond: although I don’t like to admit it publicly, I have a sneaking admiration for Hamas. After all, they’re freedom-fighting nationalists like me, just with more artillery. And quite a few of my people love ‘em.
Farage: anything which happens outside our borders is none of our business. Unless, of course, the Hun is trying to invade again, in which case our policy is to protect dear old Blighty by reinstating the Home Guard. To the shelters, everyone! [dons tin hat]
All the while it is becoming increasing clear that, before long, we might well be facing a full-scale ideological and military confrontation between the West and a burgeoning Caliphate.
And, at that point, British voters might just remember, deep in their subconscious, which of the party leaders said what.