The Corner


Which Tory PM Candidate Has the Better Answers?

Boris Johnson talks with reporters at the European Council in Belgium in May. (Yves Herman/Reuters)

When Britain eventually leaves the EU, the U.K.–U.S. relationship will be even more important. Which is why both Theresa May and her aspiring Conservative successors were so careful not to offend Trump during his state visit this summer. But the special relationship” is under new strain.

The U.K. ambassador to Washington, Sir Kim Darroch, resigned after he described the president of the United States as “insecure” in a leaked diplomatic memo. As the drama has unfolded, the two British politicians fighting to be the next prime minister have taken different approaches.

In the Christmas movie, Love Actually, the British prime minister (played by Hugh Grant) comments on the special relationship during a press conference with the president of the United States:

 I love that word “relationship”. Covers all manner of sins, doesn’t it? I fear that this has become a bad relationship. A relationship based on the President taking exactly what he wants and casually ignoring all those things that really matter to, erm… Britain. We may be a small country but we’re a great one, too. The country of Shakespeare, Churchill, the Beatles, Sean Connery, Harry Potter. David Beckham’s right foot. David Beckham’s left foot, come to that. And a friend who bullies us is no longer a friend. And since bullies only respond to strength, from now onward, I will be prepared to be much stronger. And the President should be prepared for that.

And Jeremy Hunt, the underdog in the Tory leadership race, seemed to be aiming for something similar when he told Donald Trump in a tweet that his comments saying Theresa May had gone “her own foolish way” and the U.K. Ambassador to Washington is “whacky” and “very stupid” were “disrespectful and wrong.”

Boris Johnson, the frontrunner, took a different approach. He remarked: “I have got a good relationship with the White House and I have no embarrassment in saying that.” And was later accused of throwing Sir Kim under the bus.

Some other news:

  • Parliament has voted for an amendment that will prevent Theresa May’s successor from pursuing no-deal without the House of Commons’ say-so. The measure passed 294 to 293. Yes — by one vote.
  • During an ITV debate, Johnson stated he would consider the drastic action of suspending Parliament, if that meant leaving by the next Brexit deadline (October 31.) Hunt said he would not do that since, in the past, this has led to “civil war.”
  • Johnson refused to answer whether he’d resign as prime minister if he failed to achieve Brexit by the next deadline. Hunt responded to this by saying: “My worry is that you’re setting a fake deadline because we’ll end up with an election before we have Brexit.”
  • Meanwhile, Labour now supports a second referendum and is open to the possibility of remaining in the EU. And the Irish government has reiterated that the backstop is “the only viable solution on the table” to avoid a hard border.

Tonight, as the Tory leadership contest draws to a close, a BBC broadcast of Johnson and Hunt will air in which each contestant is grilled by Britain’s most formidable political interviewer, Andrew Neil. One-on-one with Neil for 30 minutes, each candidate will likely be pressed further on what they would do with regards to no deal. They better have a good answer.

Madeleine Kearns is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute. She is from Glasgow, Scotland, and is a trained singer.

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