A sense of proportion

11 August 2018, 20:53 | Updated: 11 August 2018, 21:00


This week an air strike killed dozens of children on a school bus. It happened in Yemen. This sort of thing seems to be happening there a lot.

The Saudi Arabians have been fighting a war in Yemen for some time.

When explaining why they had bombed a school bus, the Saudis said they were attacking a legitimate target. So that's all right then.

The Red Cross said, “Body parts were scattered all over the area, and the sounds of moaning and crying were everywhere. The school bus was totally burned and destroyed.”

Which sounds less like a legitimate target and more like a war crime.

It was another incident of that conflict that did not get much attention over here, just like when the Saudis bombed a funeral.

In October of 2016, a Saudi air-strike hit a funeral hall in the Yemeni capital. It killed 140 people and injured hundreds more.

And I know what you are thinking – you are thinking what on earth does that have to do with Boris Johnson?

All week long, this country has been obsessed with Boris. Barely a breath has been expelled that did not carry his name upon it.

He wrote a column in the Daily Telegraph that concerned the issue of women wearing burqas; Denmark is the latest country to ban them.

Boris claimed he did not think that forbidding them was necessary...oh, and by the way, they look like letter boxes and bank robbers.

He lobbed those old jokes in to the column he once famously said that he dashed off in half an hour and scarpered off on holiday to Europe while the entire country engaged in pitch battle between those that clutched their pearls to their chests and had an exaggerated fainting fit, and those that were delighted that someone had publicly announced what they had always thought but were too cowed to say out loud.

It seems like pretty small beer when you think about it outside of the bubble of perpetual fury that are the airwaves and the newspaper columns.

It rather pales into insignificance when put alongside a bombed out school bus. Witnesses to that tragedy said some bodies of the children were burned beyond recognition, others were riddled with shrapnel.

Yet we heard not one word of it through the fog of approval and recrimination swirling round the absent ex-Foreign Secretary.

But what does that school bus have to do with him?

Well, the same Boris Johnson that offends and amuses in equal measure, that affects a carefully dishevelled appearance so as to leave the impression that he is less wily and ambitious than he is, that dons the look of a naughty but loveable school boy, was the same Boris Johnson that stepped in to ensure that Saudi Arabia got its weapons from us.

After the funeral bombing, the UK Trade Secretary at the time, Liam Fox, delayed the signing of export licences of military hardware to Saudi Arabia.

Officials were instructed to suspend sales of weaponry to the Gulf state.

Documents obtained by the Guardian show that the Foreign Secretary at the time personally intervened to ensure the sales continued.

That official was one Boris Johnson.

In the six months that followed, £283m of arms sales were made to the Saudis, including £4m of bombs and missiles.

That was on top of the £1 billion of bombs and missiles that we had sold them in three short months in the summer of 2015.

If we can assume that those bombs were not used exclusively for peaceful purposes, then it seems that Boris Johnson has some more serious charges to answer than whether he offended a few people in a silly newspaper column.