Is our relationship still special?
Bosom buddies – American Presidents and British Prime Ministers going back to the dark days of the World War II have mostly got on famously, and in fact it was wartime Premier Winston Churchill who came up with the word “special” when describing the relationship between the two countries.
Through the swinging sixties and the turbulent seventies there was generally a respectable and respectful dialogue between the two nations. Since then, probably top of the cross-Atlantic love-in leaders were Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, with the Iron Lady once calling Ronnie “the second most important person in my life” after husband, Denis, of course.
Tony Blair and George Bush were great chums, too, firstly on discovering that they liked the same brand of toothpaste, but then, after 9/11, Bush told reporters his nation had no better friend in the world than Great Britain and that there was “no better person I like to talk to than Tony Blair.”
Barack Obama and David Cameron were pictured sharing hotdogs at an American ball game, looking, for the cameras at least, like the best of friends, but in his memoir the former president said although he liked Cameron “personally”, they “butted heads” on many issues.
In an awkward White House photograph, Donald Trump and Theresa May were seen holding hands, she looking somewhat reluctant and later writing in a newspaper, “With Donald Trump, I never knew what to expect.” Who did, Mrs May? Friendship blossomed once more when Boris Johnson got the job of Prime Minister, with Trump stating, “I think we’ll have a very good relationship.” Apparently they did, but not for long, as Trump was soon voted out of office.
However, with Joe Biden in the White House and Johnson at Number 10, it looked increasingly that the special relationship was no longer special at all.
The bond, if any, between Johnson and Biden, hardly rock solid from the off, deteriorated rapidly. At the G7 conference in July, although they managed the PR exercise elbow bump, with Johnson claiming that they “weren’t going to disagree on anything,” it soon became obvious that they did. Biden, no fan of Brexit, told the Brits he had big worries about how leaving the EU would affect Northern Ireland and Ireland. With no resolution yet to the difficulties across the Irish Sea his concerns appear justified.
But the US’ shambolic exit from Afghanistan, and the apparent breakdown of coordination between the US and the UK brought the cross-Atlantic friendship almost to its knees. But then suddenly that seemed to change with the announcement of the new AUKUS alliance. Does any of it matter? Most of us believe US influence on world affairs will decrease over the next decade, and more of us than not think the special relationship is on the slide. As for the degree of influence the UK has over the United States? Our readers reckon it’s next to nothing.