In light of this, it’s not surprising that the debate audience responded so warmly to Hunt’s comments and so tepidly to Johnson’s. There is little demand among British voters for politicians to suck up to the United States. Unfortunately, that is exactly what Trump demands. He sees international diplomacy as a zero-sum game, where there can be only one winner. Autocrats can gain his respect, but cooperation is for the weak.
After Brexit, the British prime minister cannot alienate the thin-skinned U.S. president, but he cannot hug him close either, without repulsing his domestic audience. It will be a fine balancing act.
The resignation of Darroch encapsulates a strange political moment. A diplomat resigns for making observations that have been both widely reported and instantly vindicated by their subject’s response. Instead of backing a distinguished diplomat, the likely next prime minister equivocates, in the hope of appeasing the U.S. president. This plays badly with his domestic audience, but he considers the greater prize—a trade deal—to be worth it.