The UK’s new prime minister Keir Starmer – hoping for a Democrat in the White House, preparing for Trump.

Keir Starmer, the UK’s new prime minister, was quiet on the question of relations with the US prior to his election, choosing to avoid, in particular, talk of how he would manage a second Donald Trump presidency.

Starmer is a centre-left politician – the first to come to power in the UK for over a decade – so his views are hardly aligned with Trump’s. But the US presidential election is a few short months away and, depending on the result, the relationship between the UK and US could look very different on the other side of it.


This article is the opinion of the author Christopher Featherstone, University of York and not necessarily that of the UK Defence Journal. If you would like to submit your own article on this topic or any other, please see our submission guidelines.


After the first US election debate, and Joe Biden’s dismal performance, the new British government will be focusing on how to plan for Trump’s potential return to the White House in January 2025. And while Starmer has been silent in public, he and his top team have been preparing behind the scenes for some time.

Before arriving in government they put significant effort into building relationships with figures in the US leadership. This is a well-trodden path for UK Labour politicians and was most notable in the close relationship between Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and President Bill Clinton in the 1990s.

Impressively, Starmer and his foreign secretary, David Lammy, have been trying to build relationships on both sides of the aisle. They’ve spoken to Republicans as well as Biden’s Democrats on visits to the US.

Lammy, who was the first black British man to study at Harvard Law School and spent time working as a lawyer in the US after graduating, recently said in a speech the special relationship is “core not just to our own national security, but the security of much of the world”.


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Responding to a question about past comments he had made about Trump, he said that the two sides must work together “whoever is in the White House”.

The questioner may have been referring to the time before he became a minister when Lammy called Trump a “a racist KKK and Nazi sympathiser” and said he would protest in the streets if Trump was allowed to come to the UK. Lammy’s cautious response to questioning now reflects his far more tempered language on the subject since it first started to look like Labour could actually win power, and he may be a member of the cabinet.

Proving the UK is useful

Starmer will be aiming to demonstrate the usefulness of the UK in the US-UK alliance. With Biden, this will be fairly routine. In the event of a Trump victory in November, however, Starmer would need to show this usefulness to those around Trump – a more difficult task.

Diplomatically, Starmer can help US administrations manage relations with Nato, encouraging more reluctant members, such as Germany, whilst restraining some of the more proactive NATO members pushing to expand the alliance. Given Trump’s stated commitment to reevaluating the purpose of Nato, Starmer will also need to coordinate with European allies to demonstrate Nato’s relevance to the US.

Militarily, the UK has to demonstrate intent to restore the armed forces, especially after the US declared that the UK military was no longer a “top-tier” military partner.

Doing so would make it clear that the new British government is listening to its American allies but would also show that the UK intends to be able to deploy its military in support of US and Nato operations. Trump has repeatedly referred to his reluctance to deploy the US military, and his expectation that allies carry more of the military burden.

Until the presidential election in November, Starmer will be dealing with President Biden. The two met at the recent D-Day commemorations and less than a week after taking office, Starmer will meet Biden again, this time as prime minister at a Nato summit.

Like every other world leader, Starmer will have to tread carefully here. Given Trump’s overt dislike for his successor, proximity to the Biden administration creates the potential for difficulties when trying to build good relations with any incoming Trump administration.

Biden has been clear in his foreign policy priorities since entering office: competition with China, and guardrails on the relationship with Russia. These guardrails flew off when Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022. Yet, the Biden administration has been able to coordinate international support for Ukraine, and had a clear set of priorities.

In contrast, Trump has given little insight into how he would approach foreign policy. He has declared he would “end” the Ukraine conflict but given scant detail on how. What we do know is that he intends to stop funding Ukraine’s defence efforts and wants European allies to pay to restock US military supplies. He has also pledged to fully support Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza, which has been a point of division within Starmer’s party since before the election.

Democratic leaders from around the world struggled to deal with Trump during his first term. Typically, they either had to ignore controversies that swirled around him or become an apologist for Trump. The former US president’s preference for “strongmen” was repeatedly on show.

It would be near impossible for Starmer to emulate those who do what Trump likes best by rolling out the red carpet and lining the streets with applauding crowds. Freedom of speech in the UK means that Starmer would not be able to prevent protests against Trump if he were to come to the UK – and such protests are practically inevitable given what happened last time he visited. Starmer would do best to try to avoid a state visit from Trump – which would include meeting the king.

The implications of the year ahead for the “special relationship” are clear: demonstrating the UK’s value will be far easier for Starmer in a Biden presidency than in a Trump presidency. Starmer would feel compelled to react against the damage Trump would do to US credibility rather than be able to support it – but this would further degrade the US-UK alliance.

The UK’s new government has been preparing for a relationship with either a Republican or Democratic president. As will be the case for many world leaders, Starmer will be hoping for the predictability of Biden, whilst planning for the chaos of Trump.The Conversation

Christopher Featherstone, Associate Lecturer, Department of Politics, University of York

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license and as part of our efforts to promote open journalism. Read the original article.

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Andrew r
Andrew r (@guest_832412)
14 days ago

Why bother? trump doesn’t care for US allies. He proved that last time.

Lonpfrb
Lonpfrb (@guest_832533)
13 days ago
Reply to  Andrew r

In Afghanistan the panic exit was caused by #45 doing a really great deal with the taliban not the national government and Allies, to demonstrate his incompetent Diplomacy. That low reliability gave kaputin permission to invade Ukraine in the knowledge that the Budapest memorandum would not be honoured. The terrorist state has been able to mislead with misinformation and attack democracy and defense spending that should be strong enough to endure. Giving permission to be our worst selves enables division and discord, which makes the FSB happy. They thrive on chaos. #45 is really great at chaos and supported by… Read more »

Jack
Jack (@guest_832595)
13 days ago
Reply to  Andrew r

Trump wants strong allies not leeches.

Frank62
Frank62 (@guest_832427)
14 days ago

Trump is a major threat to western values. I wouldn’t buy a used car from him. IMO totally unfit for public office, a criminal, a Putin fan boy & liable to cause a civil war or tyranny within the USA.

AlexS
AlexS (@guest_832574)
13 days ago
Reply to  Frank62

Trump is the only things that can save Western values. because the Left controls all institutions and are destroying the West.

Jack
Jack (@guest_832596)
13 days ago
Reply to  Frank62

Absolute hogwash.

grizzler
grizzler (@guest_833533)
10 days ago
Reply to  Jack

I’m not sure how much he will threaten western values (as I’m not even sure what they are today) – but apart from that I agree with him.
Trump is definately a subversive danger to the integrity of the US.

Patrick C
Patrick C (@guest_832636)
13 days ago
Reply to  Frank62

the left caused this. people are SICK of the immigrant problem which is a cancer on all western countries- and are willing to hold their nose and vote for him. its out of desperation to fix this issue that people will risk all the other issues trump may cause. the left have no one to blame but themselves for causing someone like trump to rise to power.

grizzler
grizzler (@guest_833534)
10 days ago
Reply to  Patrick C

Again on here witth the same trite rubbish…”The west caused Hitler & WW2 , he was a mastermind” , now its …The left caused Trump and he is a master mind”
Naught but apologist hogwash to justify dangerous subversion- pulled from the same hymn sheet as Mosely in 30’s Britain.

elyh
elyh (@guest_832433)
14 days ago

Brexit Britain is gonna simp the US till the ends of time. Sad really.

Last edited 14 days ago by elyh
Jack
Jack (@guest_832597)
13 days ago
Reply to  elyh

Yes it is pathetic but it pre-dates the creation of the EU let alone BREXIT.

Carrickter
Carrickter (@guest_832456)
13 days ago

This is going to be a real problem for Starmer. The entire west, including UK, is leaning to the right; but the quirks of having a first past the post election system has handed a left wing government a big majority in the UK. France (potentially with Le Pen) and uSA (potentially with Trump) are probably our two most important security allies. The EU parliament elections also shifted it significantly to the right. Starmer himself could probably handle this, but he has surrounded himself with more left wing elements of his own party in an attempt to hold Labour together.… Read more »

Jack
Jack (@guest_832599)
13 days ago
Reply to  Carrickter

The Labour party’s grass roots will oppose selling Typhoons to KSA but they would probably support supplying them to Hamas ! They are a bunch of wackos.

Carrickter
Carrickter (@guest_832604)
13 days ago
Reply to  Jack

That’s a given! Hopefully Starmer is willing to ignore that extremist element within his party, but unfortunately they are plentiful and disproportionately vocal.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli (@guest_832466)
13 days ago

I love how all these articles over the years about the “special relationship” concentrate on the White House and Downing Street.

The SR is primarily in the intelligence and military area, not politicians, and goes back to WW2. Both sides will have to get along, because if one side pulls out, both are hit, badly, the UK especially.

Agitators in the media longing for headlines and a spectacular split either forget this, are ignorant of the levels of co operation, or actually long for it. Which raises a question as to their loyalties, don’t you think?

Lonpfrb
Lonpfrb (@guest_832534)
13 days ago

Thank goodness for UKDJ so we don’t need to rely on mainstream media for fact based journalism!

AlexS
AlexS (@guest_832575)
13 days ago
Reply to  Lonpfrb

Since majority of journalists are activists you can expect the news restricted to the subjects their activism are interested only, so what appears in media is a very limited snapshot what is occurring in the world, but also only those facts that reinforce their beliefs or even invented facts appear in the news.

That is easily demonstrable Biden “Emperor New Cloths” case, his health issues due to age being put under the carpet by journalists for years.

Journalists are against the truth when it goes against the direction of their activism.

Expat
Expat (@guest_833154)
11 days ago

Are you sure. I need to remind you of our defence secretary’s very words below. Hardly an endorsement of facing threats combined. Wouldn’t it have been better to say as our US allies stand shoulder to shoulder with us in Europe we will do the same for them?

‘And we face the reality that European allies must take on greater responsibility for European security, as the US increasingly focuses on China and the Indo Pacific.’

Lonpfrb
Lonpfrb (@guest_832531)
13 days ago

Another #45 term means that the CCP can do whatever they want as NATO will be busy Supporting Ukraine without the USA. . The only NATO member to invoke Article 5 was the USA (9/11) when everyone responded. So clearly NATO membership is the USA national interest. Congress passed a law to prevent an Executive Order to exit NATO. . NATO says the 2014 spending agreement is on track so his alleged delinquency by Europe is just to trigger his supporters. Lies. . So it’s in the national interest of the free world and Ukraine that convicted fraudster and rapist… Read more »

AlexS
AlexS (@guest_832576)
13 days ago
Reply to  Lonpfrb

Do you even think in what you write?
How China gets their hands free by USA no sending resources to Ukraine?

Lonpfrb
Lonpfrb (@guest_833402)
10 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

The background to this is that #45 said RF can do whatever they like to the delinquent NATO member states who don’t pay their dues.

That’s incorrect in several aspects but aligned with the #45 isolationist talking point that USA is paying but Europe is not.

So my point is that by the same logic, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is not responsible for Indo-Pacific conflict despite individual member states national interest.

It’s supposed to show the ignorance of #45s isolationist point and that geopolitics is beyond his ability..

Slava 🇺🇦

grizzler
grizzler (@guest_833537)
10 days ago
Reply to  Lonpfrb

Interesting point regards whether NATO itself is responsible to respond to any indo-pacific conflict. I would suggest as an entity it’s strictly not as long as that conflict is contained to that specific (or should that be pacific) geo-political sphere. Although such a conflict would impact the world commerce and therefore many NATO countries would of course most probably be directly involved. As for Trump ( or #45 as you like to reference him) I very much doubt the subtleties of such geo-politics keeps him up at night…most probably the opposite tbh.- sends him to sleep whilst he cuddles his… Read more »

Last edited 10 days ago by grizzler
DanielMorgan
DanielMorgan (@guest_832569)
13 days ago

This article assumes that the UK has influence with continental European members of NATO and can be of value to Trump in dealing with them. This is just a regurgitation of the old canard that the US needs the UK to “speak to Europe.” The US, with hundreds of millions of citizens descended from continental European families, hardly needs the UK to speak for it to them. And it assumes that current day Britain has a certain special influence with them. I doubt that. The reality is that the UK has allied itself with the Democratic Party and the foreign… Read more »

AlexS
AlexS (@guest_832579)
13 days ago
Reply to  DanielMorgan

Finally a post that busts some myths. The British mainstream media-political establishment is against Republicans – lets not even put Trump in it – some of it is only reflexive reaction to the leftist media manipulative tactics, since most journalists are leftists or extreme leftists.

Expat
Expat (@guest_833147)
11 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

I’m not sure they’re consciously left leaning. But of course a David against Goliath anti big business story will always be more appealing portraying the journalist as a warrior for the little guy.

Lonpfrb
Lonpfrb (@guest_833415)
10 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

Europe is against fascist dictatorship which is exactly what #45s Project 2025 sets out to deliver. Democratic choices of the USA must be respected but freedom of speech means that lies must be fact checked too. We have not forgotten the sacrifice of Americans and Europeans that paid for the freedom we enjoy now. So we will not allow USA to slip carelessly into a fascist dictatorship that describes forces people as suckers and loosers, without speaking the truth… As General Milley said, US forces swear their oath to the Constitution of the United States and not to a wannabe… Read more »

Chrislondon
Chrislondon (@guest_833145)
11 days ago
Reply to  DanielMorgan

And no one in Russia cares what we think of Putin either. The US has major internal splits at the moment. The Dems are part of the Wests mainstream, the Republicans are out there with Farage/Le Pen in being closer yo Putin morally. The good thing is that a week before polling the far right in France looked stronger than Trump does.

AlexS
AlexS (@guest_832583)
13 days ago

It is perfectly clear that Labour Government do not care about relations with US when the PM chooses for Foreign secretary someone that called an eventual US President  “a racist KKK and Nazi sympathiser” This eventual President that have had long black business partners and has a daughter married to a Jew. That Christopher Featherstone, Associate Lecturer, Department of Politics, University of York  don’t see the elephant in the room it is not surprising from what have been coming from Universities. The elephant is obviously the British PM choosing someone that is not only unqualified for the job but says… Read more »

Carrickter
Carrickter (@guest_832605)
13 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

Will be interesting to see how long Lammy lasts, especially if a Trump administration gives him the cold shoulder.

Knight7572
Knight7572 (@guest_832811)
12 days ago

Yeah for the Americans they cannot afford to annoy the British and Europe as the US without them is in trouble if it was facing China

Expat
Expat (@guest_833150)
11 days ago
Reply to  Knight7572

I think you’ll find Labor has already decided its not going face off with the US against China.

Healey own words endorse by the Labour Party.

‘And we face the reality that European allies must take on greater responsibility for European security, as the US increasingly focuses on China and the Indo Pacific.’

grizzler
grizzler (@guest_833540)
10 days ago
Reply to  Expat

That is one way of looking at it.
Another way is that they now recognise they need to pick up the baton in Europe as the US can’t fight two corners simultaneously.

Expat
Expat (@guest_833805)
9 days ago
Reply to  grizzler

That assumes simultaneous conflicts. Also means China can disregard any European weapons in theatre. Plus of NATO is the diversity of weapons platforms making in harder for opponents to come up with tactics to defeat them all.

This is the problem when political class comes up with strategies that’s just to oppose what tge previous government did rather than thinking intelligently.

JOHN MELLING
JOHN MELLING (@guest_833168)
11 days ago

Time to tell the USA to sod off!
A hospital got bombed today and someone in my group was on the ground trying to help and is mentally screwed and exhausted! Meanwhile the US comes on tv and says the Ukrainians must not attack russians.
If TRUMP gets in we should distance ourselves from them!
Sick of hearing this “Special Relationship” stuff..

Let’s support Europe and invest in infrastructure to remove the need for the US

I wonder if my message to the new prime minister and others, telling them to grab a pair of balls got through..🤔

grizzler
grizzler (@guest_833541)
10 days ago
Reply to  JOHN MELLING

depends who’s balls you asked ’em to grab …😉

Geneticengineer
Geneticengineer (@guest_833180)
11 days ago

The UK needs to prepare for a Trump win. Arrogant Biden will not step aside. People like me who are natural Dem voters are left completely without option but to vote for Trump. Many of my friends, blacks, gays, traditional-lefties feel the same. Prepare to see Biden demolished in a few months.

Just an opinion from a US voter.

Lonpfrb
Lonpfrb (@guest_833403)
10 days ago

The voters choice is dictatorship or democracy so choose wisely. Dictatorship means no further choice as he will do whatever he wants. That’s it, you’re done. Democracy means another choice in four years and no regrets. Vote 💙 Because the Primary election has completed the candidates were chosen by We The People and must go to the General elections. Neither are there because of arrogance rather the defined process. Anything else would be election interference. You might wonder why Republicans accept a convicted felon, proven fraudster and rapist as their candidate but that’s the process. Actually polls show that only… Read more »

Last edited 10 days ago by Lonpfrb
grizzler
grizzler (@guest_833542)
10 days ago
Reply to  Lonpfrb

Lets see if Biden is allowed to stand against him- or if the Democrats realise how much of a burden Biden actually is.
They made the same mistake with Clinton thinking anyone could beat Trump…surely they know better now….surely?

Lonpfrb
Lonpfrb (@guest_833602)
10 days ago
Reply to  grizzler

We The People already made their choice according to the process so change now would be election interference. The potential issue with health, for both elderly candidates, is dealt with by vice-president candidates. Since Project 2025 sets out the path to fascist dictatorship for #45 all rational Americans need to pay attention to how the Constitution and three coequal branches of government will be corrupted to remove their rights and freedom in the service of wannabe dictator #45. He’s described his priorities as personal loyalty and retribution on the disloyal. It is the end of 250 years of Democracy and… Read more »

Mr Bell
Mr Bell (@guest_833392)
10 days ago

It’s a sorry state of affairs when even the UK needs to contract our it’s defence to a permissive USA and requires the US government to support said national defence. It’s very much high time the UK faced upto an ever more dangerous world and invested in it’s own sovereign defence abilities. So that means signing off on another batch of F35Bs (,the 27 additional aircraft promised) more P8s (6-8 more) GCAP/Tempest pushed through into active service. A land based air defence system based on land Ceptor ER and/or Aster 30NT as well as radar guided guns for close range… Read more »

Gertrude
Gertrude (@guest_833727)
9 days ago

I think the point of demonstrating “intent” being enough has long passed unfortunately. Anything short of large action to repair the forces and demonstration of the UK pulling its weight isn’t going to be enough. The labour party has really inherited an unsolvable problem as there isn’t enough time to do this before the US elections. On a side note, I get the perception from the US they’ve been the guarantor of the Nato alliance and has been saying for a while that other partners need to pull their weight. However as of 2023 less than half of the membership… Read more »