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Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Has Johnson already broken the UK's relationship with Biden

The sound of quiet despairing sobs in Number Ten Downing Street is that of a government that has backed the wrong horse in the US election and lost its shirt and much more as well in the process. 

Brexit was predicated on the promise of Trump giving us a good trade deal, no matter how unlikely that actually was, but not only is Biden not obligated to the British Prime Minister in the same way as the man he beat, but all the signs are that he dislikes Johnson intensely and will not be in any hurry to do him any favours.

The Times sets out Johnson's problem in stark terms. They highlight comments by one of Biden’s campaign team at the weekend, in which he accused Johnson of making “racist comments” in the past, compared Britain’s immigration policies to Trump’s and criticised British ministers’ stance towards Black Lives Matter:

“They do not think Boris Johnson is an ally,” the Democratic source said. “They think Britain is an ally. But there will be no special relationship with Boris Johnson.”

A senior US politician who is expected to take a job in the Biden administration recently told a British friend those views were shared by Harris. “If you think Joe hates him, you should hear Kamala,” the senior figure said.

Biden’s ire dates to comments Johnson made during the EU referendum, when he wrote that Obama’s decision to remove a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office was a “symbol of the part-Kenyan president’s ancestral dislike of the British empire”.

Tommy Vietor, a former Obama press aide, responded to Johnson’s congratulatory tweet last night by calling him a “shapeshifting creep”, adding: “We will never forget your racist comments about Obama and slavish devotion to Trump.”

The source said: “Biden’s got a long memory and Boris is not in his good books. Biden and Obama are like family. Many of the people around Biden have been talking about Boris Johnson. The Kenyan remark has never gone away. They see Boris and [Dominic] Cummings like Trump and Bannon.”

Johnson’s relationship with Trump, and his past association with the alt-right strategist Steve Bannon, also make him an object of suspicion to Biden and to the Obama-era advisers who will form the core of his White House team, the campaign source said.

In fact, Cummings, Johnson’s most senior aide, has been withering in private about the president, telling colleagues months ago: “Trump is toxic” and urging ministers to keep their distance from him.

Aides said the mood in No 10 last week was one of satisfaction with the election.

But people around Biden, including Ben Rhodes, an Obama adviser now expected to take a national security role, have argued for Johnson to receive the cold shoulder.

In a TV address on Friday, Biden stressed tackling “systematic racism” as a priority. “Leaders who are not seen as allies on race, there will be big problems for those leaders,” the campaign insider said.

“He doesn’t want to work with people who project those views,” the aide said, and he was “shocked at the dismissiveness of black rights” after Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, called Black Lives Matter protestors taking the knee, “a symbol of subjugation and subordination” and said that he would kneel only before the Queen or when proposing to his wife.

In some ways it is good to see Johnson's dodgy views and past gaffes catching up with him, but it is the UK and those of us who live here who will suffer for a fractured relationship between him and Biden. The sooner Johnson follows Trump out of power the better.

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