When world leaders gather at diplomatic summits to discuss great matters of state their interactions are often reduced to awkward snippets of small talk and excessive bouts of handshaking. In any case, the crowning moment of a summit is the family photo of leaders arranged atop a podium at a metre or so intervals. This is the moment you finally see the commanding heights of western leadership in one place and you remember just how short Emmanuel Macron is.
But on the podium at a Nato summit on 24 March, it was Boris Johnson in the spotlight. The Prime Minister was left awkwardly standing alone as Macron greeted leader after leader behind him. Johnson — the only leader to leave their jacket undone, revealing an exceedingly long light blue tie — painfully turned around to witness the abundant conviviality. With no one to talk to, he placed his hands in his pockets, looked around and wistfully waved into the distance.
Much has been made of Johnson’s comment at the weekend that Brexit showed British people had an instinct for freedom, much like the Ukrainians. Was Macron’s cold shoulder therefore a snub?
We’ll never know. But thankfully for the people of the United Kingdom, as the leaders left the stage, Johnson pulled Macron down from the podium into a three-way hug with Joe Biden. Now that’s British diplomacy in action.