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Cockburn

Could Nigel Farage still be Britain’s man in Washington?

There’s almost no chance he will be ambassador — but the next British government may take advantage of his closeness to the president

July 7, 2019

9:55 AM

7 July 2019

9:55 AM

Leaked diplomatic cables are a hoot, aren’t they? The Mail on Sunday’s big scoop shows that Britain’s man in Washington, Sir Kim Darroch, has been briefing his government about President Donald Trump in much the same way as the average American news pundit on TV on speaks to his or her audience. That is to say, he can’t stand the man in the Oval Office, and he makes his animosity pretty clear.

‘Inept’, ‘insecure’ and ‘uniquely dysfunctional’ — these quotes read like somebody who has just read Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff’s tell-all hitjob on the presidency, before sitting down to write. And Sir Kim’s line about Trump fans being ‘almost exclusively white’ sounds more like the sneering punditry of CNN.

Cockburn can’t help but wonder how much access and insight Darroch actually had on the Trump administration — given that he remembers officials moaning in late 2016 that they didn’t know anybody in Trump’s orbit. The only British person who then had a line to the incoming president was arch-Brexiteer Nigel Farage, and of course civil service grandees like Sir Kim Darroch don’t talk to populist vulgarians such as he.

‘It’s all just spite,’ says a spokesman for Farage. ‘Nigel is more than capable of being discreet. All the government would have had to have done was pick up the phone, confidentially, and urge him to help, back-channel it, and he would have done so in the national interest. But they wouldn’t do that, would they?’

The result of this inability to ‘speak Trump’, as they say, has been that the embassy in Washington — Britain’s largest in the world — has been largely incapable of influencing or communicating with US decision-making.

The expectation now, of course, is that the incoming British prime minister, almost certainly Boris Johnson, will remove Sir Kim from his post and replace him with somebody who isn’t a Trumphobe, somebody who regards the possibility of a new trading relationship between Britain and America after Brexit as something to be embraced rather than shied away from.

Trump famously tweeted that he thought Farage would make a great ambassador. And Prime Minister Boris might like having Nigel — now head of the insurgent and dangerously popular new Brexit party — out of the way in DC while he sets about the delicate business of extricating Britain from the European Union.

Fat chance, though. The Brexit party is on 20 percent in the polls. Farage is unlikely to give up his greatest shot at becoming a force in Westminster for a posting abroad, never mind the national interest. Perhaps, however, Britain’s next ambassador might try to employ Farage’s leverage in Trump’s Washington. Worse things could happen.


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