On Sunday, nearly two years of memos from the UK ambassador to the US Kim Darroch was leaked to the press and ended up in the Mail, a popular British newspaper. Included in his memos were statements referring to President Trump as insecure and inept, causing his administration and the White House as a whole to be “dysfunctional.”
However, this is not the most shocking part of the news. Darroch is undoubtedly not the first diplomat neither abroad or in the US to claim a rather ill view of America’s president. No, the most alarming thing about the incident is that these memos and the information contained in them were allowed to be leaked at all.
According to the UK prime minister Theresa May, it is an ambassador’s job to give “an honest and unvarnished view” of any nation and the political members where they are assigned. Any views presented of those nations are then passed along in the due process. Some within governmental offices may choose to believe it and take it as their own, while others may reject it.
The very nature of the position and its assessments is bound to cause offense at one point or another. It is for this very reason that any memos or work conducted is kept secret and is to be used to government uses only. It is also why the leaking of any such information is unacceptable.
Furthermore, such information can cause irreparable damage to the relationship between the countries and their allies. The international trade secretary, Liam Fox, told BBC, “Malicious leaks of this nature are unprofessional. They are unethical. And they are unpatriotic. Because they can actually lead to damage to that relationship which can, therefore, affect our security interests.”
He went on to say, “This is such a damaging, potentially damaging, event that I hope the full force of our internal discipline, or even the law, will come down on whoever actually carried out this particular act… I think it is unconscionable that any professional person in either politics or the civil service can behave this way.”
“I will be apologizing for the fact that either or civil service, or elements of our political class, have not lived up to the expectations that either we have, or the United States has, about their behavior, which in this particular case has lapsed in a most extraordinary and unacceptable way.”
Both the prime minister and foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said that they do not agree with Darroch’s views but that it is essential that diplomatic staff such as Darroch be allowed to “feel they are able to express those frank views.”
Hunt added, “It’s a personal view and there will be many people in this building who don’t agree with that view and indeed I don’t agree with some of the views that we saw in those letters.” He went on to say, “I think the US administration is highly effective and we have the warmest of relationships and a partnership based on standing up for shared values.”
It will now be up to the UK on how they address this leak in their political system. They will need to investigate to find out how the leak happened in the first place and if any fault can be put on Darroch himself. As Fox says, the person(s) responsible should face punishment, whether from employers or the law, if the Official Secrets Act has been broken.
The issue also brings to light the general “dysfunctional” shape of the British political culture at the moment, as members debate on splitting from the EU.
Even if the fault is found elsewhere, it will be questionable whether or not Darroch will be allowed to finish his term as ambassador. Taking away his position for just doing his job would seem entirely foolish, yet there are those who are calling for his dismissal.
Most come from pro-Brexit politicians. According to the UK party’s leader Nigel Farage, the incident proves that a “major civil service reform” is needed and the first thing to go should be senior ranking officials such as Darroch.