The sensationally miscast Sir Kim Darroch, H.M. Ambassador to the United States, has now gone, followed by a grieving cortège of the Foreign Office. Their clan spirit is that of Macbeth. Even Sir Christopher Meyer, a pretty good Ambassador in his day (his memoir DC Confidential is highly readable), went in hard for Darroch within the hour after Theresa May announced his departure. Reactions in Britain are split along conventional lines. One set is outraged at a top diplomat, “Doing his duty,” who filed the truth as he saw it in various dispatches, being shopped by a malignant enemy. The other set is led by the distinguished Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins, who had no kind words for Sir Kim. Nor had Piers Morgan (a good friend to the President), nor indeed Boris Johnson, who did not defend Sir Kim in last night’s TV debate. (Boris, all but certain to be the next prime minister, would not have wanted to hitch on to his shoulders the baggage of his predecessor’s mistakes.) These commentators think that Darroch was stupid in relying on the sanctity of emails, when everything since Assange shows that they are totally vulnerable. Also, the number and variety of Darroch’s enemies cannot be assessed. With any number of potential enemies, what is the point of pursuing the old cui bono trail? What happened happened, and the fiery talk of the F.O. clansmen, who want the leak perpetrator sought out and punished with all the force of the law, will lead to nothing. The public at large has no interest in defending the interests and amour propre of the Foreign Office trade union (an institution that Margaret Thatcher loathed). The real charge against Darroch is that he was totally out of sympathy with the Trump administration, and, this being known, was unfit for office. He had to go, without delay.
As for the disobliging words the President has passed on Theresa May (“she went her own foolish way,” “a disaster,” “she had made a mess of talks with the EU”), this is nothing to what the UK commentators say about her time in Downing Street. “Time’s up for a PM who has shown herself to be incompetent, indecisive and weak” (Simon Heffer). “Theresa May has been a uniquely bad PM” (Robin Harris, a highly-respected historian of Conservatism). I consider Trump’s words mild in comparison with the flow of molten lava that comes out of the press, especially the Telegraph correspondence columns and blogs.
The giant virtue of President Trump is his language. He aligns words to realities. Words have meanings, and he wants his words to announce his meanings, a style all but unique nowadays in high politics. The English preference for euphemism is not for him. He does not speak the language of diplomacy, which is a system for masking reality, nor that of political correctness, which denies reality altogether. He regards Darroch as an enemy to his administration, and takes steps accordingly. In this he embodies the characteristic set out by La Fontaine:
‘Cet animal est très méchant. Quand on l’attaque, il se défend.’
Donald Trump is indeed a naughty animal. When attacked he defends himself. What else could be expected?
Ralph Berry writes from England.