If Huawei proves to be a disaster, Boris Johnson already knows it will be someone else’s problem

The only way to get into Boris Johnson’s last government was to be stupid enough to be prepared to go through with a no-deal Brexit, so it is no surprise at all that its breakout star ended up being Dominic Raab.

In hindsight, it was clear he was destined for great things from the moment he didn’t know where France was. In the government of absolutely-no-talents, that’s how you mark yourself out as a future foreign secretary – the job to which Dominic Raab has now risen.

Who can blame him? France is a small country. Not that easy to find on a map. Not like China, where the brand new super-fast internet is going to come from.  

That’s right. Boris Johnson has confirmed that the Chinese state-supported telecoms company, Huawei, will indeed be granted the contract to supply a huge chunk of the country’s new 5G network.

There are fears that China will use this access to spy on British businesses and British people, and steal intellectual property. And these fears are not unfounded.

China has a history for exerting its global influence by stealth and subterfuge. Eighteen months ago, it emerged that China had infiltrated the apparatus of the British state to such an extent that it had married the foreign secretary without his knowledge.

Not Dominic Raab, of course. It was his predecessor Jeremy Hunt, who temporarily forgot his wife was Chinese. He has been roundly mocked for this ever since. In fairness, when you’re trying to force your way into a government that is going to be hand-picked for its stupidity, and you know you’ve got Dominic Raab breathing down your neck, publicly forgetting the nationality of your own wife is in some ways a clever move, but it didn’t quite work. Not after “You Guys Won’t Believe Where France Is!”

Not even single-celled organisms, nor Andrea Leadsom, stood a chance after that.

We have, alas, digressed. It was Dominic Raab who was sent to the dispatch box of the House of Commons to account for the controversial Huawei decision. It really should have been culture secretary Nicky Morgan, but after her own controversial decision to join the House of Lords so that she could serve in the Boris Johnson government that she stood down as an MP after refusing to serve in, she is barred from entry to the Commons.

“We would never take decisions that threaten our national security,” said the foreign secretary and keen Brexiteer, sounding never more like the opening salvo in a freshers’ week game of “Never Have I Ever”.

As if to continue the metaphor, David Davis, Penny Mordaunt and Iain Duncan Smith all leapt to their feet. Fearless defenders of Britain’s national security, all of them, just as long as you’re prepared to ignore the whole European Arrest Warrant thing, the one that allowed the UK to extradite and lock up the 21/7 bombers, and which we are now readying ourselves to be kicked out of.

All of them took it in turns to say that Huawei should be “banned” from our network. Tom Tugendhat, a man so seemingly entitled to be prime minister that he may not actually know that he isn’t, continued his assertions that we have “taken back control from Brussels only to hand it to Beijing”. A tolerable soundbite, that, but for the glib and utterly false comparison it draws between China and the EU. Still, it’s probably just about better than comparisons to the Soviet Union or the Nazis, as most of his colleagues prefer. A progress of sorts.

The Huawei question is intensely complex. Other companies provide 5G, but Huawei is the cheapest, and it’s the cheapest because it is backed by money which the US is adamant comes from the Chinese state.

Apparently our own security services say they can “manage” any attempts China might make to do bad things with the opportunities its access will offer. Which might be true, but Donald Rumsfeld once had a few wise words about knowns and unknowns and unknown knowns that might be relevant here.

It is a tough call and the details are complex. None of us can know with any certainty if it’s the right decision. But we can look at Boris Johnson’s record on such matters, and I find myself again returning to the deal he personally intervened to strike with West Ham United football club over the Olympic Stadium. 

The modus operandi then was to throw around £300m of extra public money at the problem, get the deal done, get the photo taken, don’t get bogged down in the details and someone else can worry later about the complete disaster it has become.

This, of course, adds to his other greatest hits, including but by no means limited to the non-existent garden bridge and the cable car to nowhere. Oh well. You can laugh about those. This, on the other hand, might turn out not to have been very funny at all.

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