There can be few more extraordinary international political moments of recent times than the helpful and surely friendly advice from the US President Elect on who should be Britain’s next Ambassador to the United States. That someone being, of course, none other than Trump’s new BFF and the gift that keeps on giving – Nigel Farage. On the surface, this was yet another media storm in a teacup created by a man now so adept at generating a spate of headlines and a day or two of rolling news coverage, all with a 140-character Tweet. We’ve seen it before: Trump defies convention, tweets something incendiary, fails to withdraw the statement, and the news media don’t stop talking about it for 24 hours. Standard stuff.
But it’s no laughing matter. Because in one move, the President Elect demonstrated not just what kind of President he intends to be (one that couldn’t care less about diplomatic niceties), and exposed an uncomfortable question for Theresa May and her Government – what to do with Nigel Farage? In an era of Brexit uncertainty, with the UK on a diplomatic collision course with most if not all our EU neighbours, a strong and fruitful UK-US relationship is more important than ever. Loath him as no doubt many in No. 10 do, you cannot deny that Nigel Farage has the best relationship with Donald Trump of any foreign politician in the world (except, erm, maybe Putin). It is essential that Britain’s interests are pursued successfully in the United States and the private disdain reportedly felt by Trump’s advisers towards Britain’s actual US ambassador is a problem.
As the Tories know from bitter experience, Nigel Farage will not go away. Only today he has announced a New Year speaking tour across the US and has publically urged No. 10 give him a role in maintaining UK-US relations. He is a major and increasingly international political force with a proven ability to predict the electoral wind. Theresa May’s most shrewd move might be to (gulp) give him a job. A special envoy role to the United States perhaps, to clip his wings by bringing him into the tent? It would be hard to stomach, no doubt, but in the interests of the Special Relationship, shouldn’t the PM leverage Nigel’s special relationship?
Frankly, can she afford not to?