Monday 9 November 2020

UK/US relations: Tory chickens coming home to roost


It is suspected that our Government was actually hoping for a Trump win.  If true there can be no more damning  evidence of our increasing isolation among the world's liberal democracies.  

To add to our shame there are good reasons to expect that our  future relations with the US are going to be somewhat frosty, due to the opinions and actions of Tory leaders pasy and present.

 Back in 1916 while he was Mayor of London, when President Barack Obama  expressed support for Britain's remaining in Europe, Mr  Johnson dismissed him as  " part- Kenyan with an ancestral hostility to the British Empire."  Probably true, and not quite as contemptuous as Winston Churchill's dismissal of Mahatma Gandhi as "a half-naked Fakir" but not all that friendly either. President-Elect Biden was Obama's Vice President and they are said to have been very close, almost brothers.

Then in the first week of the Trump Presidency our  then Prime Minister Theresa May scuttled across the  Atlantic to be the first foreign leader greet him and fawn at his coat-tails.  She even invited him to make a State Visit, something which is normally offered only towards the end of a presidency.  When it eventually took place it must have been a considerable embarrassment to the Queen and most of the people involved.  Mr Biden is clearly a generous and forgiving man, but he is hardly likely to be impressed by this fawning on his odious predecessor.

Indeed, Mr Biden is on record as having described PM Johnson as  a "physical and emotional clone of Trump. 

And right down to the events of last week, when it was clear that Joe Biden was the winner although  the victory was not yet official, whereas most democracies, with Germany in the lead, were sending him their congratulations, the British Government was still prevaricating.

Mr Biden's record shows that he is a consummate politician who will not allow personal animosity to damage fruitful diplomatic relations.

But there are two concrete issues which indicate that the UK is far from the "best mate" status British governments would  dearly like.

The first is the EU.  Mr Biden has made it perfectly clear, as did Obama, that the US would much prefer the UK to remain a member.  He is unlikely to go out of his was to rescue us from our own folly.

Secondly is Ireland.  Mr Biden is of Irish extraction and  will be appalled by any measure that endangers the Good Friday agreement  and risks damaging the peace which, fragile as it is, still prevails there.

Such a measure is the Internal Market bill, which if passed will not only break international law and violate the agreement to which Mr Johnson and his government signed up to less than a year ago, but also endangers that peace. The House of Lords is likely to pass amendments to the bill his afternoon.

PM Johnson should whip his 80 majority into accepting them


  1. It is suspected that our Government was actually hoping for a Trump win

    By whom? Why? All the analysis I've seen has suggested that they were hoping for a Biden win, having found the mercurial, chaotic Trump administration impossible to deal with and rather looking forward to a stable White House where, while you might not agree with the policies, at least they won't reverse forty minutes later.

    When Boris laid into Obama it was because Obama was trying (though probably at David Cameron's request, so Boris should have fired at him at least as much as Obama, but didn't, for careerist reasons) to poke his nose into the internal democracy of another sovereign state — something generally considered frowned upon in civilised circles. And it's exactly that civilised attitude of not getting involved while the process of vote-counting is ongoing that meant it was absolutely correct to wait until the official results were beyond doubt before offering congratulations to one candidate or the other. What if congratulations had been offered when it was still numerically possible for Trump to overtake Biden, and then that was what happened? That would have been incredibly embarrassing.

    (And note that Biden himself did this correctly, and did not claim victory until it was certain. It would have been a bit weird to congratulate Biden before Biden himself was sure he'd won!)

    Mr Biden has made it perfectly clear, as did Obama, that the US would much prefer the UK to remain a member

    Well, yes. The USA has always liked us being in the EU because they thought it gave them an 'in' to the EU: they could put pressure on us to put pressure on the EU, if they wanted the EU to take a particular stance. but it's not our job to be America's international gofer, and indeed in other areas people like you often object to that idea quite violently, so it's odd you should champion it here.

    Secondly is Ireland

    Which, as it is a matter of internal UK domestic politics, is absolutely nothing to do with the USA, and if Mr Biden wants to get involved I will offer to him exactly the same advice I did to Mr Clinton when the saxophone-playing sex pest turned up in Belfast in the nineteen-nineties: fuck away back to America, you nosy little guttersnipe, you are not wanted here.

    1. As usual you give a clever demonstration that it is possible to see the same situation from an entirely different point of view.

      I do not pretend to be privy to the thoughts of our government so I did not claim that they "hoped" for a Trump victory, simply that this was "suspected." By whom? Parts of the commentariat, and with reason. Trump and Johnson are alleged to have some sort of rapport, and Trump is in favour of Brexit, whereas Biden thinks it is a foolish step and Johnson is a Trump "clone." Biden is considered likely to take a tougher line on a trade deal if Johnson's polices endanger peace in Ireland. Seems plausible.

      True there is a convention that visiting leaders of other countries do not comment on the internal affairs of the country visited. But it is an increasingly interconnected world and Obama clearly saw that our continued membership of the EU would be more conducive to world order,orderly trade and peace than our buccaneering flights of fancy. In any case, as you acknowledge, his host David Cameron probably asked him to and Obama was merely being polite.

      As to Ireland, so many of the families of North America have Irish connections that they inevitably take an interest in what goes on there. A lot of it has been damaging (money sent to fund the IRA) but there has also been positive help. It was a Canadian general who co-ordinated the much of the peace process. Again, it's an international word. No man is an island, and neither is any country.

      Incidently I was a choirboy in my youth and expected to avoid naughty words. I prefer to keep my blog Simon pure in that respect.

    2. By whom? Parts of the commentariat

      This is a bit 'questions have been asked', isn't it? Anyone can 'suspect' anything.

      Trump and Johnson are alleged to have some sort of rapport, and Trump is in favour of Brexit,

      That might have been a point at the beginning of Trump's term; but I think by now we have learnt that Trump's words were rarely backed up with actions. Words are cheap, and Trump's aren't worth the paper they're printed on. What he said about Brexit was of no benefit; what matters is what he did and he didn't actually do a lot. So his loss at President actually doesn't make much practical difference to Brexit at all.

      Obama clearly saw that our continued membership of the EU would be more conducive to world order,orderly trade and peace

      I think you'll find that in fact what Obama saw was that he thought that our continued membership of the EU was in America's interests; his job, a the time, after all, was to look out for America's interests.

      But it is not our job to so arrange our national sovereignty so as to best advance America's interests.

      It was a Canadian general who co-ordinated the much of the peace process

      Ah, yes, General de Chastelain, on whose watch IRA criminals were released, pardoned, and allowed to participate in politics as if they weren't murdering scum, all before the IRA had disarmed and without them ever actually having to surrender.

      Perhaps he, like the Oval Office cigar-chomper, ought also to have kept his nose out of the UK's internal affairs.

      Incidently I was a choirboy in my youth and expected to avoid naughty words

      A good rule, so that they can be kept in reserve and have the maximum impact when the seriousness of the situation actually are calls for them.

    3. Once again a masterclass in drawing different conclusions from the same circumstances.

  2. So apparently Boris managed to speak to Mr Biden to congratulate him before either President Macron or Chancellor Merkel. Inasmuch as such trivia matters, but the UK press seems to think it does.

    1. Slick work by our ambassador, sadly undermined by a gormlessly ambiguous tweet from Downing Street.

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