Has Sunak lost his marbles? It takes major league ineptness to turn a ritualistic Greek demand for the return of the Parthenon Friezes into a diplomatic incident

(Photo by Dan Kitwood - WPA Pool/Getty Images)


British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, is so floundering, so out of his depth and at the end of his time that the basics of diplomacy are impossible for him to grasp.

Sunak disinvited the Greek Prime Minister, Kyrios Mitsotakis, who was visiting London, from a meeting at No 10 because the Greek had said clearly that he wanted the Elgin marbles to return to Athens.

This cavalier rudeness is made all the worse because his new star signing as Foreign Secretary, Lord Cameron of Surrender (sorry, I meant, Chipping Norton), should have been involved in the discussion. Sunak has just made his four-back predecessor’s job that much harder.

What is bizarre is that the last time Mitsotakis was in London, just two years ago, he had the traditional foreign political dignatory’s visit to No 10 Downing Street. While the Prime Ministers discussed matters of mutual importance, they also discussed the Parthenon marbles.

At the time, then PM Boris Johnson put out a statement in which he “understood the strength of feeling of the Greek people on this issue”, but reiterated the UK’s longstanding position that this matter is one for the trustees of the British Museum. The leaders agreed that this issue in no way affects the strength of the UK-Greece partnership.

The infamously brusque, blasé Boris was defter than his beleaguered replacement.

Mitsotakis is said to be angered and baffled by the snub, more so as he was offered a meeting with the Deputy PM, Oliver Dowden. Adding snubs to snubs.

The amateur hour position of No 10 on this matter has turned what is a ritualistic diplomatic show into a major point of contention.

It is part of the game, a constant, pointed charade that has been part of UK/Hellenic relations for the past 30 years. “Greek politician comes to London, has cup of tea and biscuits, calls for the marbles to be returned, only for the request to be politely but firmly rejected”. Sunak has managed to turn this into a serious diplomatic spat.

And one with a Nato ally, when there is war in Europe, a security crisis in the Mediterranean, mass inward immigration and the impact of that immigration being seen in stabbings and attacks across the continent coupled with an increasingly fractious civil society in response.

Greece is on the front line for the immigration and is an essential, old and trusted ally.

The advisors in Sunak’s office, and by extension in the Foreign Office, should be fired on the spot for proffering the advice to disinvite the Greek PM. Or for not having the backbone to stand up to the boss and convince him of the abject stupidity of his decision.

That is literally what advisors are for, after all.

“I express my displeasure that the British Prime Minister cancelled our planned meeting just hours before it was due to take place. Anyone who believes in the rightness and fairness of his positions is never afraid of confrontation.”

Sadly, though just a visitor to the UK, Mitsotakis has in these few words more accurately skewered Sunak than a thousand gallons of newsprint.

Swirling Westminster rumours of a May election, a financial statement of theft and generosity, policy statements as freely thrown in the air and as degradable as confetti, do not an adminstration make.

Some might call this a zombie Government in London, and its shuffling incoherence perhaps make this an apt description. But Zombies still have a hunger. Sunak clearly doesn’t.