This article was originally published on Spectator USA.
Did British prime minister Theresa May take a shot at Donald Trump in yesterday afternoon’s address to the UN General Assembly? Or was Trump a proxy target for a blond populist closer to home, Boris Johnson?
On Tuesday, Trump rejected the ‘ideology of globalism’ and defended the nation state and its ‘doctrine of patriotism’. The next day, May mounted the same stage and implicitly rejected Trump’s stance:
‘We have seen what happens when the natural patriotism which is a cornerstone of a healthy society is warped into aggressive nationalism, exploiting fear and uncertainty to promote identity politics at home and belligerent confrontation abroad, while breaking rules and undermining institutions.’
The United States under Trump isn’t the only state to fit that description: much of it fits China, Russia and Turkey too. But who, other than the United States, could May have had in mind when she referred to past ‘mistakes’ and failed efforts to ‘impose democracy on other countries through regime change’?
Apart, that is, from her own Conservative party, and her predecessor as prime minister, David Cameron. In 2011, Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy of France encouraged the Obama administration to bring down the Gaddafi regime in Libya. The result was not democracy but civil war, a migration crisis, and what Obama ruefully called a ‘mess’.
Perhaps May had other Conservatives in mind. That might explain why she would be willing to antagonise the United States, Britain’s patron and ally, with Brexit looming in March and the UK’s economic future in the balance.
In the last two weeks, pro-Brexit Conservatives, none of them admirers of May, have launched a coordinated campaign in the US, to ‘make the case for a US-UK free trade agreement’, as a well-placed British source told me.