With the most important issue in the middle east left still unresolved, Tony Blair stunned the world by announcing this week that he is no longer to be the region’s peace envoy. Whether the band of psychopathic madmen who are currently raging across Syria and Iraq are properly called ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State or some other name entirely must therefore, it seems, be a matter that Mr Blair’s successor will have to sort out.

At the time of writing, however, it was not even clear whether the “quartet” – that is the informal alliance of the EU, US, UN and Russia that notionally employed Mr Blair – will bother to appoint a successor at all. This is a dangerous signal to send to the former Prime Minister, whose ego has already attained a size whereby disposing of it when it is no longer required will be like clearing up after Chernobyl.  He will take it as a sign of being an impossible act to follow, although other interpretations are available. Given what has happened to peace in the middle east in the eight years since Mr Blair became its champion, it may be time to consider a war envoy.  Or perhaps Russia has simply got fed up with being teased over the irony of it sending a peace envoy anywhere. Russia had objected to Mr Blair’s appointment in the first place, presumably on the grounds that Vladimir Putin was the most ironically-qualified for the job.

The naming of the middle eastern madmen came up in the debate on the Queen’s Speech on Monday. The Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, agreed with a Rehman Chishti, a Conservative backbencher, that the proper term was not, in fact, any of the above, but “Daesh”, which is the Arabic name for them. Mr Hammond told Mr Chishti that he would call them Daesh, or perhaps ISIL, showing that the grand Foreign Office tradition of hedging your bets is not quite dead. Mr Hammond’s French counterpart, Laurent Fabius, calls them “Daesh cut-throats”, but Mr Hammond won’t go that far, and a good thing too: bad things tend to happen when British and French foreign policy become too closely aligned.

It was his ability, in contrast to the Foreign Secretary’s, not to get bogged down in details like this, that not only earned Mr Blair the envoy gig in the first place, but the right to do it while simultaneously charging gullible audiences £100,000 a go for giving a speech explaining what he was doing. Mr Hammond has never come close to earning £100,000 for a speech, although, on the evidence on Monday, there may be a market for him for that kind of fee in return for a guarantee that he won’t make one. The Foreign Secretary’s ponderous oration was by way of being an extremely long Abide with Me for the cup-final that eventually started when Boris Johnson made his second maiden speech. Eschewing the opportunity to limn the delights of either Uxbridge or South Rusilip (it is a regrettable fact that the volcanoes and concert halls all start east of Rayners Lane), Mr Johnson contented himself with insincerely wishing the Prime Minister well in his European negotiations and pointing out that it would be no great dishonour to walk away empty-handed. By this he meant, of course, that the honour would all be Mr Johnson’s to lead the “no” campaign should the Prime Minister’s hands remain innocent of European concessions.  This is a prospect that Mr Johnson’s supporters were eagerly talking up by the end of the week.

It is impossible to assess whether David Cameron is making much progress through what Mr Johnson called his “European schmoozathon”. Some obliging remarks out of Berlin one day are immediately cancelled out by the sound of harsh derision from Poland on the next. In Eurovision terms, we are still in the very early stages of the voting, with half the participants yet to register a point, and the certainty that the Spanish will find a way of shafting us still to come.  It is entirely possible that the final result – though it is not at all clear, not least to Mr Cameron, what a “result” means in this context – will come down to the famous “shy Lithuanian” factor. Europe’s swing states could end up backing the Prime Minister’s position only at the final moment and in the confidentiality of the ballot box. The French will then spend the next six months arguing among themselves why they lost.

Back at home a group of 50  MPs have formed themselves into a bloc called “Conservatives for Britain” to make life difficult for their leader. Mr Hammond has already warned that what they want – i.e. complete sovereignty over British law-making – is not realistic. We would have to leave the EU altogether to achieve that, the Foreign Secretary warned, slowly arriving at the point.  The Prime Minister, however, appears chillaxed, to the extent that stopping foreign migrants getting their hands on British benefits no longer appears to be the animating goal of his existence. With his head turned towards even greater things, Mr Cameron went off to the G7 summit in Bavaria demanding international action to stamp out global corruption. There is a degree of peevishness underlying this objective: the Americans have only just learned the rules of soccer, yet in their typically brash way they have set about having arrested the people who run the sport. The PM may not have got Sepp Blatter, but why should be not be the one who brings Robert Mugabe to book or Kim Jong Il?

It is suddenly fashionable to regard Mr Cameron as a political colossus – a politician more in charge of the political biosphere than any PM since the former peace envoy himself. There is a danger that his own ego will expand accordingly and this at a time when he will inevitably be thinking about his next job. As soon as somebody thinks up the idea of appointing an International Backsheesh Czar, Mr Cameron is going to be right up there in the lead applying for it.

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