Fellow envoys say they have made similar observations about the Trump administration and deplore the lack of support from Boris Johnson for their UK counterpart

It was like a tennis match with an empty umpires chair. On Friday, the British ambassadors residence in Washington hosted a Wimbledon Watch Party and English Breakfast, with two giant TV screens showing the mens semi-final. In the ballroom there were bacon and eggs, orange juice and bucks fizz and, of course, strawberries and cream. But there was no ambassador.

Kim Darroch had left for a planned holiday a day early, officials said, after a rough week in which his leaked memos led to abuse from Donald Trump and his resignation, though the ambassador does intend to return for an unspecified period. The embassy considered cancelling the annual Wimbledon event but a mood of keep calm and carry on prevailed, not least because of Darrochs love of tennis.

The deputy ambassador, Michael Tatham, offered remarks, some of them lighthearted, from Darrochs usual position at a lectern under a framed Andy Warhol screenprint of the Queen. He was followed by Mark Ein, an American entrepreneur and investor in tennis, who paid tribute to Darroch and the transatlantic alliance.

Unlike other events hosted by the grand 1920s residence, no White House officials were present. American guests standing under the crystal chandeliers expressed support for the ousted diplomat.

John Arundel, the associate publisher of Washington Life magazine, said: Consummate professional, consummate diplomat. Everyone in Washington loved him. When you talk to Sir Kim, youre always the most important person in the room. He was a force of light and he made Great Britain great. Ive known four ambassadors and he was my favourite.

Asked how he felt Darroch had been treated, Arundel replied: Awful. Unacceptable. Ive had a dozen conversations with him about President Trump over the years. He never spoke ill of him. Not once. Always a consummate professional.

Arundel, who has known Trump for 31 years, warned that the Darroch affair is likely to make other diplomats nervous.

Everyones afraid of being lopped off by Trumps Twitter feed. I think most European and other countries are going towards very dry ambassadors who are not going to speak their opinions and not be candid and I think thats sad because you should be able to have a private conversation with your home office to take the current political temperature.

Darroch resigned on Wednesday, saying: The current situation is making it impossible for me to carry out my role as I would like. Trump had excoriated him on Twitter, calling the ambassador a pompous fool and a very stupid guy. Theresa May backed him but her likely successor, Boris Johnson, conspicuously failed to do so.

In a peculiar U-turn on Friday, Trump told reporters: I wish the British ambassador well. Some people just told me too bad but they said he actually said very good things about me. He was sort of referring to other people.

It is little secret that Darrochs observations were in line with those of many others. Grard Araud, who recently retired as the French ambassador, told the New York Times: Yes, yes, everyone does. But fortunately I knew that nothing would remain secret, so I sent them in a most confidential manner. Contacted by the Guardian, Araud declined to comment further.

The British embassy in Washington has suffered a rocky week. Photograph: Pablo Martnez Monsivis/AP

The saga has also struck a certain irony in the US diplomatic community. The 2010 publication by WikiLeaks of tens of thousands of classified and sensitive documents laid out frank and often unflattering impressions of foreign leaders and governments.

Patrick Gaspard, president of the Open Society Foundations and a former US ambassador to South Africa, said: Its obviously disconcerting for any diplomat when cables leak.

We had a similar situation with the Obama administration with the WikiLeaks dumps. But personal relations matter much less than mutual interests.
There is so much hypersensitivity in this administration around personal relations that it seems to trump mutual interests.

That is bound to affect other ambassadors, Gaspard said. I think certainly diplomats are on edge about personal attacks. This president takes personal pique and gives that priority.

Other countries are thought likely to give ambassadors stronger backing. Gaspard said: It was astounding to see Boris Johnson tripping over himself not to defend a career diplomat who, by all accounts, has served British interests really well. It speaks to the hyper-personalised nature of this.

Most diplomats would have the expectation that there would be a robust defence of them. I served in South Africa when there was a president who invited his fair share of controversy. I needed to know I could send candid assessments back to Washington without a leak, or if it should leak, to know I would be backed by my government.

Brooks Spector, formerly a US diplomat in South Africa, said: The ambassadors are probably sending gentle notes to their governments to say, If this happens to me, we hope youll come out and back [me] real quickly. I hope they would.

An ambassador in Washington from a European Union country, who did not wish to be named, confirmed that fellow diplomats express sentiments similar to Darrochs in their own cables.

I talked to a number of them recently and those people all have exactly the same opinion, the ambassador said.

Sometimes we are very critical about this administration if its needed and I think also what you see in the newspaper articles is they quote selectively. If you quote selectively from my cables, you can make an assessment that I am very critical of the Trump administration. If you leave out X and you highlight Y, thats what you get.

In general, I think that what [Darroch] writes down, maybe not in exactly the same words, you will find in all our cables.

The diplomat expressed confidence his or her government would give stronger backing than Johnson offered Darroch.

I would expect my minister to support me to the hilt and I have every confidence that he will, the ambassador said.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us


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