The row over the British Ambassador to the US, coming just after a public debate between the leadership challengers to the Tory Party succession has been instructive as to the likely direction of play. Leadership elections, especially when a party is in power, can give useful clues as to the new coalition, in party-political terms, that is being assembled, the personalities and the likely policies in particular.
The resignation of Darroch after the leaking of his confidential memos is not surprising. His role was compromised, we do not yet know by whom, but fingers of suspicion are being pointed to the well-oiled dirty tricks dept of the Brextremists and their overseas fellow travellers. Nothing hurts like the truth, they say, although I wonder if Trump knows the meaning of the word, so wrapped up as he is in narcissistic fantasyland. More likely he will defend mightily against pricks in his grandiosity bubble and so no wonder demanded the head of his unintended exposer.
Impartiality of civil servants
This unfortunate event contains many things. For one it is a blow to the constitutional impartiality of the civil service, who since the Northcote-Trevelyan reforms of the mid-19th Century have been expected to serve each administration with equal diligence. When they fall foul of politics, their effectiveness is compromised. This also happened with the departure of Ivan Rogers as the UK chief representative with the EU after the 2016 referendum. Governments have been in effect eroding the principle of impartiality for some time, both with special advisors and with moving top career civil servants ministers clashed with.
Clues as to Johnson’s foreign policy alignment
Two, it gives further indication of the tenor of the anticipated Johnson regime, in that it is seen as crucial to keep in line with Trump, even when he is doing his bully best. Leaving the EU, especially under a No Deal version, places the US central to British trade and diplomatic interests. Britain will be, and indeed already is, in a very vulnerable position, and therefore staying aligned to the policies of your closest theoretical ally is important. This also aligns with Farage and Bannon’s work to reinforce the impression that we can expect the attempted Johnson authoritarian revolution to include the neo-liberal trade treaty with the US, dismantling of the NHS and the bonfire of regulations. Dancing to the Trumpian Republican tune will be key.
Whether it was Brexiters, Trumpians or Russians who did this we may or may not find out, but it could be that they wanted to remove a negative thorn in the side of the Brexiter-Trump axis.
The delicate web of checks and balances in the unwritten constitution
However, this event also fits with the trend already observed where the checks and balances in Britain’s constitutional framework are being threatened by a group or groups of people for whom the expressed pretexts for power are not as they have been presented. We are already seeing a challenge to Parliamentary Sovereignty with the threat to prorogue Parliament, even though a key element of the 2016 Brexiteer case was that very principle. It seems that the end justifies the means, and that now also seems to include the Union. Judges are called “enemies of the people”. Experts are not needed and sound, impartial advice is no longer acceptable.
Now, perhaps we are seeing more of the true colours of the unelected regime about to be introduced.