In the latest undiplomatic spat between Washington and London, involving the leader of the anti-Brussels UKIP party, Nigel Farage, Donald Trump has tweeted that the British politician would make a "great" British ambassador to the US.
Many people would like to see @Nigel_Farage represent Great Britain as their Ambassador to the United States. He would do a great job!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 22 November 2016
Amusing though this clearly is to the media as well as the wider public, the story hides a deeper unease within the White House and Downing Street over future US-UK relations and the almost interminable theatrical sideshows concocted by Farage who has proved himself a devastatingly damaging clown-by-stealth, capable of bringing down a political dynasty single-handedly.
Farage — whose name is derived from the Hugenots, the French protestant group — started his life as a commodity trader, having decided university life was not for him. He soon got his claws into politics, dabbling in the Conservative Party before voting Green, because they hated the Brussels machine.
But when the Conservative Prime Minister John Major signed the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 — which led to the creation of what is now the European Union — Farage became a founder member of the UK Independence Party (now UKIP). He also got himself elected as a member of the European Parliament, where he still leads his party (and generally gets on the nerves of just about everyone).
However, he sowed the seeds of discontent within the Conservative Party, gradually eroding popular backing from them, winning over support to his UKIP party, which culminated in — then — UK Prime Minister, the pro-EU David Cameron, being forced to promise an In-Out referendum on British membership of the EU in a once-and-for-all attempt to have the issue out, remain within the EU and move on from constant party divisions.
Farage gave Cameron the opportunity, but it backfired badly on the Conservative PM, who lost the referendum, resigned from Downing Street the next day and soon announced his withdrawal from British politics altogether soon after. Farage had drawn blood and left Britain shell-shocked, Europe aghast and the world seemingly unable to comprehend the political earthquake the Hugenot descendant had precipitated.
As often happens, there are several aftershocks following earthquakes, although it is extremely rare that they are greater than the first. In the delivery of Donald Trump to the White House, a seismic surprise occurred and — unsurprisingly — Farage was not far behind. He had cannily flown over the Atlantic several times in support of Trump.
Once the Follicly Flamboyant One had beaten Hillary Clinton to the White House, Farage was the first British politician to rush to Trump Tower to be photographed with its eponymous owner. UK Prime Minister Theresa May dismissed this is a party trick — as she did suggestions that Farage should act as go-between on future negotiations between Trump and May.
I have known several of the Trump team for years and I am in a good position with the President-elect’s support to help.— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) November 22, 2016
Despite this clearly undiplomatic — dare we say 'un-British' — behavior, Trump's tweet declaring: "Many people would like to see @Nigel Farage represent Great Britain as their Ambassador to the United States. He would do a great job!" will be seen in London as extremely poor etiquette by the President-elect.
The backroom staffers in Downing Street and the White House, who have had to deal with myriad political crises — Suez, Vietnam, Cuban Missiles, Iraq-gate, to name but a few — will never have seen such a blatant act of diplomatic discourtesy as a president-elect telling London who to appoint to the top diplomatic post in the world. And it just had to be Farage, didn't it?
As London reels from political pandemonium since Brexit, the challenge of rewriting its place in Europe and now a new man in the White House, it has something new — and wholly unpredictable — to contend with. Lines of communication between London and Washington are never going to be what they were. Not now that Farage and Trump have opened the toybox.