Sir Kim Darroch’s epic misjudgment has as good as ended his time as H.M. Ambassador in Washington, and his career. His dispatch to the Foreign Office complaining of the utter ineptitude of the Trump administration has been leaked with devastating consequences. “He has not served Britain well,” said the President, showing a capacity for understatement not always associated with him. But what, essentially, has happened?
Everything is in the dates. Darroch was appointed in January 2016, the beginning of the year when the roof fell in on European and American politics. He then represented mainstream judgment in governing circles: the European Union was a good thing, and the dimly-discerned coming of Trump (and the passing of Hillary Clinton) was a bad thing. Darroch had not changed his views by the end of that fatal year, or subsequently. He is an old-style EU cheerleader and Remainer who is now an extinct species, a coelacanth who has failed to realize that the world has moved on. The text of his dispatch astonishes with its crude recapitulation of the anti-Trump tirades that one can read in the New York Times and Washington Post any day. He has simply bought in to their prevailing version. Where is the value-added commentary of an Ambassador superbly placed to detect the gold in the Presidency? Is there nothing to be said for Trump’s policies on immigration, euro-skepticism, climate change, foreign affairs? And what is H.M. Ambassador for, if he fails to work as closely as possible with the President on matters of mutual interest? President Trump has consistently shown a strong pro-Britain leaning. It must have been difficult to maintain this position with Darroch occupying the Lutyens embassy—supported by May in Downing Street.
Darroch has also failed to understand that no communication is safe in a world of hackers and leakers. The facts of this leak are interesting in themselves. The source is a highly-placed minister or official (my guess, official) who despaired of the embassy’s failure to relate to the Trump Administration. The Foreign Office itself knew well that they had a dud in D.C. He should have been recalled long ago, but Theresa May’s unwillingness to rock the boat in which she traveled first-class was paramount. The leaked document was given to Isabel Oakeshott, a well-regarded Brexiteer journalist who then had it published in the Mail on Sunday. It is a revolt by an important section of governing circles against the follies of the present May administration. And it comes beautifully timed at a moment when the Prime Minister is disabled, and can do nothing to save her Europhile/anti-Trump Ambassador.
Help is at hand. Within a couple of weeks there will be a new occupant of Downing Street. It is the most natural thing in the world for the new leader to place his own man in Washington. (Churchill lost no time in sending Lord Halifax there, as it happened a very good appointment.) It is all but certain that Boris Johnson, who gets on well with the President, will send a man on the same wavelength. Things are looking up on Anglo-American relations.
Ralph Berry writes from England.