Britain Grovels: the Betrayal of the British Ambassador

Photograph Source: U.S. Department of State – Public Domain

Here in Ukania, where I’ve been for the past week, many things are going on: Wimbledon tennis, the cricket World Cup, the British Formula 1 Grand Prix, the Brexit fiasco, the shitty drama that is the Tory party leadership contest, revived interest in the “friendship” between the Queen’s son Prince Andrew (“Randy Andy”) and the sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein, and the resignation of the UK’s ambassador to the US at the instigation of Donald Trump.

The UK ambassador, Kim Darroch, was thrown under the bus by the soon-to-be prime minister BoJo Johnson, who, when asked repeatedly on TV, refused to give his support to the ambassador after the latter’s unflattering memos to the Foreign Office, on Trump and his administration, were leaked anonymously.

Darroch’s assessment of Trump was spot-on, simply because it was fully in line with numerous other such assessments, As such, it was a repetition of what is now conventional wisdom. Darroch said: “We don’t really believe this administration is going to become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional; less unpredictable; less faction-riven; less diplomatically clumsy and inept.”

Darroch also asked whether the White House “will ever look competent”.

Far more scathingly accurate accounts have been given of Trump and has administration. Nonetheless, Darroch’s commonplace memos sent Trump into a rage.

To quote The Guardian: “Even so, he [Darroch] could never have imagined that his distinguished 40-year diplomatic career at the Foreign Office would end with the US president publicly volleying insults his way, calling him “a very stupid guy”, “wacky” and a “pompous fool”.

Trump said he would have no more dealings with Darroch. It must however be remembered that Darroch had insisted on maintaining contact with Trump in the 2016 election campaign, which Hillary Clinton was expected to win by a mile. To quote The Huffington Post:

“One great irony in the affair, according to a former foreign office minister, is that Darroch was in fact one of the few people who kept open lines to Trump’s team during 2016 when everyone else was writing off his presidential bid. “Everyone though Hillary would win, but Kim was the utter professional and kept saying we needed to keep close to Trump,” the ex-minister said.

In fact, it was Darroch who helped arrange for Johnson to get a foot in the door with the Trump transition team in early 2017. Johnson had needed to rebuild his relations, having once attacked the former reality TV star for his remarks about London being a no-go area for crime”.

Trump’s insistence that Darroch would henceforth be persona non grata, coupled with BoJo’s refusal to back Darroch no less than 6 times on TV, meant the ambassador had little choice but to resign.

A couple of matters are of possible significance here. The first concerns the source of the leaks, and the second involves the course of events that may unfold from the ambassador’s resignation.

Regarding the source of the leaks, there are two hypotheses (and they are no more than that, pending a fuller investigation).

One is that Trump and BoJo want a British ambassador who will be much more supportive of Brexit, which was not the case with Darroch. Hence, the ridiculous suggestion has been made in Ukanian far-right circles that the white-supremacist Trump fan boy, Nigel Farage, would be a good choice to succeed Darroch.

The second, weaker and much more cynical, hypothesis is that the leak of the Darroch memos was instigated by someone close to the outgoing prime minister Theresa May, so that Darroch (whose term as ambassador was due to end in December) could be replaced by May with a career diplomat who would be in situ for several years while not accommodating the agendas of Trump and BoJo.

May has a week left in office, so she will have to move quickly if she wants to make this unprecedented appointment of an ambassador purely in order to preempt the choice of the individual who succeeds her as prime minister.

May, whose social background is several steps lower down the ladder than BoJo’s, is reported to dislike his patronizing ways, so who knows how much credence should be attached to this second hypothesis.

In any case, BoJo has undermined from the beginning all of May’s haphazard and unsuccessful attempts to strike a Brexit deal with the EU. So perhaps enough reason for May to poke BoJo in the eye in her final week as PM.

The British press, and even his fellow Tories, have denounced BoJo for sacrificing one of the UK’s top diplomats in order to know-tow to Trump, thereby making it clear that BoJo was now putting Trump’s boorish prejudices ahead of Ukania’s interests.

In effect, it seems that while BoJo is PM no UK ambassadors will be appointed who aren’t prepared to bend to Trump’s diktat.

According to The Guardian, Darroch grew up on a council estate but became a high-society party animal over the course of his diplomatic career.

Trump’s flunkeys–Sarah Sanders, Kellyanne Conway, treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, among others—were said to be regulars at Darroch’s popular embassy parties. Sanders also attended a private dinner a few months ago. Alas, their boss has called time on their British embassy partying by blackballing Darroch!

The two-faced Wilbur Ross then promptly cancelled a long-planned meeting with Liam Fox, the UK Secretary for International Trade, who had come to Washington to see Ross to facilitate a post-Brexit trade deal with the US, because Darroch had been expected to attend. Instead Fox, a staunch Brexiter and BoJo backer, had a meeting with Ivanka Trump.

The fawning Fox said he was apologizing to Ivanka for Darroch’s memos, saying:

“I will be apologising for the fact that either our civil service or elements of our political class have not lived up to the expectations that either we have or the United States has about their behaviour, which in this particular case has lapsed in a most extraordinary and unacceptable way”.

Ivanka, the handbag designer and phony, who owes her undefined position in the White House to sheer nepotism, should of course have been told by Liam Fox that Darroch, in his assessment of her father and his administration, was merely repeating what is spoken of without the slightest controversy within the Beltway.

Theresa May was usually on her knees when she dealt with Trump (who responded by calling her a fool later on), but Fox and BoJo are taking servility to another level– they resemble supplicants of yore who had to crawl the length of a palace chamber on their stomachs as they approached a mediaeval potentate.

The motto of the Brexiters is “Take back control (from the EU)”. While the EU has never succeeded as a democratic project, it nonetheless has not expected or required stomach-crawling from Ukanians.

No wonder Trump loves this kind of Brexiter Brit—“We won’t be slaves of the EU!” has clearly been replaced by “Mr President, we will grovel and suck-up to you, because that’s what a special relationship requires!”.

Kenneth Surin teaches at Duke University, North Carolina.  He lives in Blacksburg, Virginia.