Vladimir Putin: I believe that you know everything about the coming Olympics and I am wondering what else I can tell you. Or, maybe, you do believe that you know everything so I could hardly make you change your mind.
And so it began.
Britain’s anguished slide into global political obscurity took a public twist on the Andrew Marr Show (Sunday, BBC 1, 9am).
A much-vaunted “interview” with Mr Putin turned out to be four questions posed alongside other journalists and then a couple of minutes one-on-one.
Marr should retire now after this toe-curling episode.
The disdain with which Putin swatted aside one of the nation’s journalistic heavyweight was embarrassing – for Marr.
The lickspittle journalist even told Mr Putin he was the “third most popular man in the world – beating the Pope”. Marr was timid, servile, deferential and overawed.
While other interviewers tackled the cost of the Sochi Olympics and corruption, Marr went for the liberal jugular with questions over Russia’s stance on gays.
Andrew Marr: Do you think homosexuals are born or made?
Vladimir Putin: This is beyond my professional interest.
Andrew Marr: Mr President, before this sports festival starts there have been a lot of amnesties in Russia, in particular concerning Greenpeace. Some critics say that you just “are making a forced smile”.
Smiling, Vladimir Putin: What kind of answer do you want to hear from me?
Andrew Marr: I would like you to say, “I am a real liberal and hold liberal-views”.
Vladimir Putin: It’s true.
Marr: “That’s the answer? Ok, marvellous.”
That’s right, the Scot used the short time he had to big up and impose his own liberal values on Putin. This, despite the fact the Sexual Offences Act only decriminalised homosexual acts in England in 1967 (in private between two men, both of whom had to be 21). It was a further 13 years before same-sex love became legally acceptable in Marr’s Scottish homeland.
We may think we still have clout, but no-one’s listening.
In December the Chinese newspaper Global Times mocked Cameron over comments calling for expanded democracy in former UK colony Hong Kong – a territory Britain ruled for 150 years with no popular mandate.
And that was after it was seized by gunboats protecting the Opium Trade – all started of course by the refusal by Qing Dynasty authorities to import opium.
The editorial added: “We’ve discovered that Britain is easily replaceable in China’s European foreign policy. Moreover, Britain is no longer any kind of big country, but merely a country of old Europe suitable for tourism and overseas study, with a few decent football teams.”
Its sneering conclusion: “We wish Prime Minister Cameron and his delegation a pleasant visit to China.”
Lampooned by two of the BRIC nations who dominate the global economy.
The Bric acronym was coined by economist Jim O’Neill, who has now identified the ‘Mint’ countries – Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey – as emerging economic giants.
Surely Nigeria respects us, and our vision of values in governance – stop laughing, people acclaim our position as the Mother of Parliaments. Er, no.
Only the other week Central Bank governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi in Nigeria argued that corruption “rarely prevents economic development”.
Tomorrow morning Marr interviews foreign secretary William Hague no stranger himself to being totally ignored.
“Syria stop using chemical weapons.”
“Iran step away from the nukes.”
At least they’ll feel important together.