Last updated: November 28, 2010 10:30 pm

‘Special relationship’ could spring a leak

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The WikiLeaks disclosures are expected to cause a mixture of outrage and political embarrassment in Britain, laying bare what US diplomats really think behind the facade of the “special relationship”.

The Guardian, one of a number of newspapers to have seen the documents in advance, says they contain “devastating criticism” of British military operations in Afghanistan.

If so, the claims will be damaging to morale for British forces on the ground and could further undermine public support for a mission that is already highly controversial.

David Cameron, prime minister, wants British troops to be out of Afghanistan before the next general election in 2015,, but has always insisted they were playing an invaluable role in the US-led Nato operation in the country.

The US documents are said to include a dismissive reference to “paranoia” in Britain about the state of the supposed special relationship and suggests that keeping the British government “off balance” might be a good idea.

The leaked documents also contain criticism of Mr Cameron ahead of the general election, although the prime minister may be able to brush these aside.

The Conservative leader was also subject to vehement criticism from Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, only to find himself working alongside him in a coalition government after the May 6 poll.

Nevertheless, the British political establishment is gripped with a mixture of fear and nervous excitement about some of the allegations that are likely to surface in the coming days.

Mervyn King, Bank of England governor, has come under fire recently for allegedly being too close to Mr Cameron and George Osborne, although the Guardian claims he was far from complimentary about their qualities when speaking to US diplomats before the election.

The US authorities are said to have requested “specific intelligence” about British MPs, and the views of American diplomats in London about leading players at Westminster are keenly awaited.

Meanwhile the Guardian says the documents also reveal claims of “inappropriate behaviour” by a member of the British royal family – allegations likely to be pored over by the tabloid press.

The British foreign office condemned the leak of the US state department cables but insisted that it would not damage British-US relations.

“We condemn any unauthorised release of this classified information, just as we condemn leaks of classified material in the UK,” a spokesman said.

“They can damage national security, are not in the national interest and, as the US have said, may put lives at risk.

“We have a very strong relationship with the US government. That will continue.’’

Nevertheless, British-American relations are usually dressed up by diplomats and leaders – including Barack Obama, US president, and Mr Cameron – as being “special”. That picture could be tarnished by the end of a week of Wiki revelations.

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