So Boris Johnson’s comeback trail, like that of Liz Truss, runs through Washington, DC?
On the last day of January, Boris Johnson was wandering around Capitol Hill, meeting and greeting sundry members of the Republican Party.
The trip came within weeks of Liz Truss’s attempt to chum up with the same political crew, albeit a slightly different cast.
What’s with former British prime ministers and America’s Republicans?
Climbing the greasy political pole.
Mr Johnson met Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Senator Rick Scott of Florida, Representative Jim Banks of Indiana, and former speaker Newt Gingrich.
He made an evening appearance on Fox News, to hammer Rishi Sunak for failing to send fighter jets to Ukraine. Indeed, his comments to anchor Bret Baier underlined Mr Johnson’s rejection of the Biden administration’s decision not to send those same jets: “Every time we’ve said it would be a mistake to give such and such an item of weaponry, we end up doing it and it ends up being the right thing for Ukraine.”
And he talked tough, declaring that the West should not fear Vladimir Putin’s threats and the sooner Russia gets its comeuppance “the more powerful the message we send to people like China that the West … will not tolerate aggressive attempts to change borders”.
He seems to have impressed enough for Mr McConnell to invoke his view about the pressing need for Russian defeat in Ukraine. Addressing threats from China, Mr McConnell said “We need to have a total focus on defeating the Russians in Ukraine. That’s certainly not only [Mr Johnson’s] view but the view of the government in the UK”.
Yes and no.
Mr Johnson’s apparent bypassing of Democrats on the Hill says something and it’s not good.
Clearly, there’s a section of Britain’s Conservative Party that doesn’t view bipartisanship as important in the relationship with America. There lies a perilous path. Look what happened to Israel when Benjamin Netanyahu went down the same route and pulled back from a prime strategic asset – support from both Democrats and Republicans. Instead, Mr Netanyahu cemented an alliance with Republicans and American evangelical Christians at the expense of millions of liberal US Jews.
But with Mr Netanyahu’s new government trying to fundamentally transform the core of Israel’s democratic system, the relationship with the US could weaken, for all that it goes back nearly 80 years.
US support for Israel is increasingly controversial and partisan in Congress and the relationship could become more transactional and less essential.
Britain’s Conservatives have been warned.