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Summary

A riveting account told from the room where it happened: insider Kim Darroch, former UK ambassador to the US, charts the strangest and most convulsive period in the history of the special relationship. 

@realDonaldTrump: ‘The wacky ambassador that the UK foisted on the United States is not someone we are thrilled with, a very stupid guy.... We will no longer deal with him.’ 

Kim Darroch was British ambassador to the US as the age of Trump dawned and Brexit unfolded. One of the UK’s most experienced and respected diplomats, Darroch was given the task of explaining Trump to the British and Brexit to the Americans. Choosing to resign after his confidential cables criticising the Trump administration were leaked to the press, Darroch’s unvarnished, behind-the-scenes account reveals for the first time the inside story of this tumultuous time and reflects more broadly on Britain’s relationship with the United States. In a book rich in anecdote and insight, he describes the challenges of dealing with the Trump White House and offers a diplomat’s perspective on Brexit and how it looked to Britain’s closest ally.

As the closest Brit to the story, Darroch explains why the British embassy suspected a Trump victory from as early as February 2016, what part every key figure - from Sarah Sanders to Michael Flynn - has played in Trump’s administration and what balanced policy makers on both sides of the Atlantic should consider during this era of pandemic, seismic change and populist politics.

A riveting account from the best-informed insider, Collateral Damage charts the strangest and most convulsive period in the recent history of Britain and the US - and the state of the ‘special relationship’ today.

©2020 Kim Darroch (P)2020 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic reviews

"The former British ambassador to the US is rude about Theresa May, assertive on Brexit and refreshingly free of self pity.... Darroch recounts the events which led to his resignation as UK ambassador in Washington in droll style.... Darroch’s memoir is refreshingly free of self-pity. It is a highly readable and entertaining account of his diplomatic life and times.... He is honest about the 'factors' that made Brexit possible. These include large-scale immigration, profound regional inequality, identity politics and social media - all things that played a role in Trump’s rise.... Rich in insight." (Luke Harding, Guardian)

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Dispatches from our man in Washington

Kim Darroch was the UK ambassador to the US for almost four years, resigning in December 2019 following a high profile leak of documents in which he was reported to be critical of President Trump. For such a senior diplomat, these memoirs are surprisingly candid about Mr Darroch's time in Washington and, just as interesting, how he got there. Of Scottish heritage, his family owned the croft from which George Orwell famously wrote 1984 but his childhood was spent mostly in Nairobi Kenya before returning to the UK and a modest academic record resulting in the young Darroch driving fork lift trucks in a factory. There have been several "sliding doors" moments in Mr Darroch's life, the first of which is when he decided to take the exams to join the Civil Service where he excelled and after a number of interesting posts in the Diplomatic Corps that took him to Prague after the collapse of the Soviet Union and then to work on the Channel Tunnel project and time in Brussels as the UK Permanent Representative to the EU. I had always imagined that diplomats have little say into where in the world they are posted but it appears that this is only partly true. When asked where he wanted to go next, Kim Darroch jumped at the chance to be UK Ambassador to in Washington, partly, we hear, due to his love of classic Southern rock from the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd. The story is told through the author's plummy vowels and clipped diction and it is fair to say that Mr Darroch's time as Ambassador could not have straggled a more interesting time in US (and UK) politics. It is certainly not just dealing with lost passports and hosting trade talks, we hear that the Ambassador is expected to be seen in Washington and be the lynch-pin between the US and UK. This is a challenging job at any time, but add the complications caused by the chaotic Trump presidency with its revolving door Apprentice style leadership and eventual impeachment and the turmoil in the UK resulting from Brexit "the stupidest decision any country has ever made" in the UK the consequences of which Mr Darroch was consistently asked to explain and this was a perfect storm the likes of which cannot imagine any ambassador will ever encounter again. Eventually, Mr Darroch had to leave his position in Washington as he too became victim of one of the President's tantrums. He is now free as a bird. And this bird you cannot change.

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  • 26-09-20

Quite simply, this is superb

For a straightforward, erudite and yet dryly humorous account of the past few years of political turmoil, this really does take some beating! Loved it.

1 person found this helpful

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A very civil Civil Servant

Kim Darroch looks back on his career in the Foreign Office with particular emphasis on his time in Washington, observing and interfacing with the Trump administration. The events and peccadilloes of the past four years are related with the benefit of distance and, as befits a senior well-informed civil servant, with clarity, humanity and insight. Although delivered with a slightly detached air, it is very clear where KD's sympathies lie - and I suspect that the book will therefore appeal primarily to those who are not fans of the 45th President of the US, nor, for that matter, Brexit. This is not "Letters from America" but it is an engaging narrative which certainly held my attention from beginning to end.

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Witty, engaging and interesting

I went for this one as I’m a sucker for anything related to Trump and his erratic thruthlessness. That part of this book is unsurprising and won’t tell you much you don’t already know, but there’s so much more to this book. There are some great stories and insights in here and Darroch comes across as a charming and interesting character. I really enjoyed this one. Highly recommended.

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Fascinating. Brilliant

Glad that Darroch narrated the book himself. It helped that I shared every opinion he expressed.

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A superb comedy of errors.

Farce is a very special British gift and the former ambassador in this hilarious comic theatre of patronising, aloof, nonsense is in the very best tradition of Monte Python. His contempt for the rise of Trump is only matched by his total obliviousness to the true cause of Brixit. Only a midwife of and apologist for the Maastricht Treaty could possibly write such deluded nonsense. Indeed splendid nonsense this is, in the very best traditions of Lear. The audio book is particularly brilliant as it is possible to actually hear his contempt and delusion first hand. A true delight and makes this fable a superb comedy of errors. Has a diplomat ever been so out of touch with reality? There was a time not so long ago when respected Ambassadors kept 'mum'. A noble tradition of diplomatic silence. This comic masterpiece would suggest a return to those more respectful and diplomatic times is long overdue. What is clear is the author was the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. A creature of the 'Ancien Régime' completely out of his depth. Hence in every way he was 'collateral damage' in fast moving times. In short well past his sell by date.

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Really interested

Well written and information on the UK USA political affairs during donald trump . Kim darroch was right man in DC.

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Straightforward, Honest and True

A very well-informed and in-depth look at the wider political circumstances leading up to and surrounding Kim Darroch’s resignation as UK Ambassador to the United States taking in the UK Brexit vote and Trump's US election victory. To describe the book is to describe Kim Darroch: straightforward, honest and true.

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One of the best Audible books I've listened too

A very informative look into the diplomatic side of politics with a nonpartisan writer. Great job Sir Kim.