The British embassy in Washington regarded Joe Biden as “past his best”, according to the former UK ambassador to the US Kim Darroch, who also described the Democratic presidential candidate as flat and unimpressive.
The criticism is expected to cause ruffled feathers at the embassy, with Boris Johnson likely to seek to establish close relations with Washington if Biden wins the election on Tuesday.
Speaking to the New Statesman podcast World Review, Lord Darroch said: “What we used to say inside the embassy about Joe Biden – to be indiscreet – was he is certainly past his best and his best was never that great.”
He also described Biden’s TV debate performances as mediocre. “He had been pretty terrible in the first TV debate, but got away with it because Trump did so badly.”
Darroch was forced to leave his post as ambassador after diplomatic cables were leaked revealing that he made disparaging remarks about Donald Trump. The president made it clear that he would not work with Darroch.
He has now written a memoir of his time in the diplomatic service, called Collateral Damage. Darroch revealed that for some Obama-era officials, who are likely to reappear in the Biden foreign policy team, many of Johnson’s disparaging remarks about the last Democratic president are still fresh in the memory.
Darroch spent two months this spring at Harvard University, teaching students attached to the Institute of Politics. “I never met one of them male or female who was a Biden supporter,” he said. “They all liked Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders or Peter Buttigieg. They did not know where he was on the issues. They could not tell you a single thing Joe Biden stood for”.
He said Biden’s strength was working in a bipartisan way, and predicted that should he win he would make an early visit to Nato and to the EU, supporting greater European integration. Senior Democrats have made it clear that they regard Brexit as a mistake, and by extension question the judgment of the prime minister.
The chair of the foreign affairs select committee, Tom Tugendhat, described Darroch’s remarks as gossip.
Speaking at the Institute for Government, another former British ambassador to Washington, Sir Peter Westmacott, said the UK would lose influence in Washington as a result of Brexit. “We will be on our own, somewhere offshore [from] the European Union and somewhere in the mid-Atlantic and creating something called ‘Global Britain’.”