Leaked diplomatic messages written by the British Ambassador to the US, Kim Darroch, make Donald Trump look bad, but their publication is also a blow to the UK.
As leaked diplomatic communiques go, it wasn’t exactly revelatory. The opinions of the UK’s Ambassador to the US, Kim Darroch – that it was unlikely Donald Trump’s administration would “become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional; less unpredictable; less faction riven; less diplomatically clumsy and inept”, that it could “crash and burn”, and that “this is still the land of America First” – are shared by many outside commentators across the political spectrum in the UK. Indeed, as Ian Dunt, editor of Politics.co.uk, pointed out, it would have been a bigger news story if Darroch did not think in this way.
Some might celebrate the publication of Darroch’s messages to the UK Government as further confirmation of Trump’s nature, lack of ability and general unfitness for office. However, such criticisms are water off the US President’s back and he’s has had some success in painting similar comments as the outrage of an elite, out-of-touch establishment.
The downsides of the leak are considerable. If embassy staff fear their political assessments may be made public, they are likely to tone down what they have to say, to be as diplomatic in private as they are in public. That would only serve to damage the UK’s ability to understand what is happening in the rest of the world.
Another possible outcome from the post mortem into the leak is that such communiques are shared with a smaller circle of people to minimise the chance of a leak or, at least, to make it easier to catch the culprit if there is one. Again, the lack of information-sharing would cause a problem.
It also virtually forced Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to state that the “US administration is highly effective and we have the warmest of relationships and a partnership based on standing up for shared values” in order to minimise the diplomatic damage to relations with the vain and thin-skinned Trump, who the UK will soon be approaching, cap in hand, in the hope of securing a post-Brexit trade deal.
The person who has lost the most as a result of this leak is Darroch, with the politicisation of his honest assessment leading to calls for him to be sacked.
The Leave.EU campaign was quick to suggest a replacement for “bad hombre” Darroch – one Nigel Farage, Trump’s own nomination. Something for anyone celebrating the leak to ponder.