Leaked UK cables: A sign of a government in disarray

By Robert Griffiths
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, July 12, 2019
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A file photo of Kim Darroch. Darroch has resigned his position as U.K. Ambassador to the United States following the publication of memos with observations about U.S. President Donald Trump. [Photo/VCG]

Every ruling power contains within it differences of view or emphasis which, if channeled constructively, can have a dynamic, beneficial effect.

But when they reflect deeper, antagonistic contradictions in economic, social and political life, they eat away at unity, purpose and direction. When such a destructive process reaches the point of open blood-letting, unconstrained by "collective responsibility" or, in Britain, the Official Secrets Act, it is the surest sign that the end of a regime is nigh.

As WB Yeats put it in his magnificent poem "The Second Coming" (1919): "Things fall apart; the center cannot hold."

The leaking of confidential assessments of President Donald Trump made by the U.K. Ambassador to the USA Sir Kim Darroch, is the latest public display of the British Conservative party's disintegration.

In his secret reports to the British government made over the past two years, Darroch describes Trump as "inept," "insecure" and "incompetent." Trump's White House is damned as "uniquely dysfunctional," with competing officials engaging in "knife fights" with one another. The president's economic policy threatens to break up the world trade system as his administration goes into a "downward spiral" leading to Trump's own "disgrace and downfall."

Reactions to the publication of these and other documents have been predictable on both sides of the Atlantic. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt have claimed, perhaps disingenuously, not to share Darroch's assessments of Trump and his administration, while insisting that compiling such reports is a normal ambassadorial duty.

It is indeed the job of ambassadors to send back frank assessments of the conditions, trends, forces and prominent personalities of the country in which they are stationed.

Questions remain as to whether, firstly, Darroch was wise to express himself in such extravagant terms, knowing that his assessments would be read by a wide range of British government officials, diplomats and intelligence officers.

Secondly, to what extent has the U.K. ambassador allowed his own values, views and preferences to cloud his judgment?

From a privileged social background, Darroch has had a long career in the British state apparatus. Before his appointment to Washington DC by former Prime Minister David Cameron in 2016, much of his top-level service in Foreign Office media relations, national security and the European Union was under Cameron's predecessors Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Darroch shares Blair's muscular view of the world, whereby the U.S. and its junior partner Britain are entitled to bomb and invade other countries in the name of "humanitarian intervention." As an ardent supporter of NATO and the EU like all his political masters, Darroch has been disappointed by Trump's lack of enthusiasm for both alliances and by his failure so far to turn words into warfare. 

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during an event at the White House in Washington DC, the United States, July 8, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

As expected, Trump has hit back petulantly since the leak. His tweets have disparaged Darroch and declared him persona non grata (an "unwelcome person"). The U.S. president has also rubbished Darroch's chief defender, Theresa May, branding her negotiating strategy with the EU as "foolish" and "a disaster."

While one of the contenders for the post of Conservative Prime Minister, Jeremy Hunt, has criticized Trump for being "disrespectful" and pledged to keep Darroch in post, front-runner Boris Johnson has avoided taking sides.

Johnson has promised to take Britain out of the EU on October 31 and hopes as incoming Prime Minister to negotiate free trade deal with Trump and Darroch's impending downfall may suit Johnson's plans for closer relations.

However, the motivation for the leak remains a mystery. Was it intended to benefit Boris? Perhaps it was intended to sour U.K.-U.S. relations just as he heads for 10 Downing Street? Or was it simply a grudge-bearing colleague of Darroch exacting their revenge? 

As for Trump, he is banking on a Johnson victory in the race for Conservative Prime Minister. Trading insults with May and Hunt is a side-show. Trump and – less consistently – Johnson are part of a far-right realignment in world politics which renounces "liberal" values and threatens democratic rights. In more and more countries, it is challenging the ruling establishment and the political and intellectual mainstream.

Unfortunately, the alignment of most liberal, social-democratic and green parties with Western imperialism, NATO and the EU means that they cannot represent the real interests of workers and the mass of people disillusioned with the economic and political status quo. They offer no credible "third way" between the populist, nationalist far right and the "liberal" big business establishment.

Until the political left regains clarity and influence, the next few lines of Yeats' epic verse may resonate ever more strongly: "The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity".

Robert Griffiths is a former Senior Lecturer in Political Economy and History at the University of Wales and currently the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Britain.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors only, not necessarily those of China.org.cn.

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