Farage condemns 'petty party politics' as No 10 snubs Trump go-between offer
Nigel Farage has accused Downing Street of allowing "petty party politics" to get in the way of the national interest, after he was given the cold shoulder over his offer to act as a go-between with US President-elect Donald Trump.
Number 10 dismissed suggestions that the Ukip leader might become the "third person" in the relationship between Mr Trump and Prime Minister Theresa May, insisting that the Government already has "well-established" channels of communication.
Mr Farage scored a huge political coup in becoming the first British politician to meet Mr Trump after his election victory, and said he was ready to play a "constructive" role in fostering close UK relations with the new regime at the White House.
But Mrs May's official spokeswoman p ointed out that the Prime Minister has already had a phone conversation with Mr Trump, in which he invited her to visit Washington at the earliest opportunity and voiced his hopes of striking up a relationship comparable to that between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.
"The president-elect talked about enjoying the same relationship Reagan and Thatcher did," said the spokeswoman. "I don't remember there being any third person in that relationship."
In response, Mr Farage told LBC radio: "It just amazes me that those ghastly little apparatchiks that work in Downing Street put out statements like this. It just goes to show they are not really interested in the country or the national interest, they are more concerned about petty party politics and trying to keep me out of everything.
"If you think of America in terms of a business and think of them as a client we want to do business with. What would you do? You would use the person who has the connections. Nobody in this administration in the UK has any connections with the Trump team at all, and yet they are prepared on behalf of the country to cut off their noses to spite their faces."
Mr Farage, who spent around an hour with the president-elect in his Trump Tower home in New York, said he had only gone to the US to meet "old friends" in the politician's team and did not expect to meet Mr Trump himself.
Conservative former defence minister Sir Gerald Howarth said it was "not sensible" to ignore Mr Farage, and the May administration should "think out of the box" about their relations with Washington.
"If Nigel Farage is well-connected with Donald Trump - as it would appear that he is - then we should certainly be talking to him," Sir Gerald told BBC Radio 4's World At One. "I am not suggesting a formal role for him but I certainly do think it is worth talking to him."
Mr Farage appeared to hint he had spoken with ministers about his contacts with Mr Trump. Asked whether any Cabinet members had sounded him out, he told LBC "Not really", though he declined to explain his comment.
Pressed over whether Mrs May saw a role for Mr Farage, the PM's official spokeswoman said: "We have established routes of engagement with the president-elect and his team. Our diplomatic staff have been building those contacts and links in the run-up to the election ... Relations between the two teams are working well."
And she brushed off suggestions that ministers could be briefed by Mr Farage on his meeting, telling reporters: "It seems to me that there are pretty widespread reports of his visit to Trump, so I'm not sure they need to speak to him - they could just read the British press."
The spokeswoman said she "did not recognise" reports that Mrs May was disappointed that the UK embassy in Washington, led by ambassador Sir Kim Darroch, had not got closer to Mr Trump's team during the election campaign.
"The Prime Minister has welcomed the work that the diplomatic team have been doing at the embassy in Washington and the engagement from our ambassador to the US and his team with the teams of both candidates in the run-up to the election," she said.
The spokeswoman went on: "This is about the relationship between the Government of the United Kingdom and the president-elect and the office of the White House as it will be once he is inaugurated in the United States. There are well-established channels for that relationship between the elected politicians, the elected leader of the US and the Prime Minister of the UK and we intend to continue with that route."
Mr Farage said that the election of Mr Trump represented a "fantastic opportunity" for the UK which could give it extra clout in Brexit negotiations under Article 50 of the EU treaties.
"He is a really devoted Anglophile," said the Ukip leader. "He loves this country and he was talking about where his mum comes from in Scotland and how beautiful the countryside is and he has investments in this country.
"I think, talking not just to him but to his team, there is no question that they want the relationship between the US and UK to be back where it should be - because Obama very much downplayed it.
"I think we have got a fantastic opportunity here, a chance to do a trade deal with the USA. And the prospect of that - I think - strengthens our negotiating hand in Brussels after Article 50 is declared, so this is really important stuff."
Mr Farage dismissed Sir Kim as an "arch-europhile" and said that Mr Trump's team had "very long memories" about disobliging comments about the president-elect made by Cabinet ministers including Mrs May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson during the election campaign.
"I genuinely, honestly think I could play a constructive role here," said the Ukip leader. "But if I'm not wanted, what can I do?
"I don't want anything, I'm not asking for anything. I'm just saying that actually I can help with something that I think is very, very important."
Mr Farage said he did not believe that Steve Bannon - the Breitbart News chairman who has been appointed a senior adviser to Mr Trump, is a "white supremacist", as critics have claimed. And he said that while there "may be a bit of truth" in reports of a spike in hate crimes since the election, it was being "exaggerated" by Mr Trump's opponents.
Former chancellor George Osborne backed Mrs May's position.
Asked if he would hire Mr Farage to build bridges with Mr Trump, Mr Osborne told ITV's The Agenda: "Absolutely not, I mean Theresa May is a very sensible person who is not going to do that.
"The British Prime Minister or the British Government cannot contract its foreign policy out to Nigel Farage."
Mr Osborne urged Mrs May to focus on Brexit rather than relations with Mr Trump.
"For the first time really the most important decisions over the next few years are going to be about our relationship with Europe, not about our relationship with the United States," he said.