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Trump blasted the UK ambassador to the US, again. A British PM hopeful clapped back.

Jeremy Hunt, the foreign minister and finalist to be British prime minister, called Trump’s comments against Theresa May and the UK ambassador “disrespectful.”

Foreign Secretary Holds Press Conference On Christian Persecution Report
UK Foreign Secretary (and prime minister candidate) Jeremy Hunt on July 8, 2019.
Alastair Grant-WPA Pool/Getty Images
Jen Kirby is a senior foreign and national security reporter at Vox, where she covers global instability.

Jeremy Hunt, the United Kingdom’s foreign secretary and finalist to become the next British prime minister, has flung himself into the diplomatic spat between the US and the UK over leaked cables that said some very blunt things about President Donald Trump.

Hunt defended Prime Minister Theresa May after Trump berated her on Twitter Tuesday over her handling of Brexit. Hunt also backed the UK ambassador to the US, Kim Darroch — the guy who wrote or signed off on the cables — after Trump called him “wacky” and “a very stupid guy” and said he’d been told Darroch was a “pompous fool.” This followed a Trumpian tweetstorm on Monday in which the president again insulted May and said the US would “no longer deal” with Darroch.

Hunt directed his response right back at Trump, tweeting: “@realDonaldTrump friends speak frankly so I will: these comments are disrespectful and wrong to our Prime Minister and my country.”

“You said the UK/US alliance was the greatest in history and I agree,” Hunt added, “but allies need to treat each other with respect as @theresa_may has always done with you.”

He finished by saying that if he were prime minister, he’d keep Darroch in his position, despite Trump’s declaration that he won’t work with the diplomat anymore. “Ambassadors are appointed by the UK government and if I become PM our Ambassador stays,” Hunt said.

These leaked cables are not going away quietly, as the UK might have liked

As foreign secretary, it’s Hunt’s job to stand up for the UK’s diplomatic corps abroad. He, like May, has said he doesn’t agree with Darroch’s characterization of Trump and his administration as “clumsy and inept” and “uniquely dysfunctional,” among other statements.

Still, both he and May have defended Darroch’s decision to provide his candid assessment of the administration in the country he’s been assigned to — which, as Hunt noted in Tuesday’s tweets, is part of a diplomat’s job.

But after Trump’s latest dig (the White House also uninvited Darroch from attending an official dinner in Washington for the emir of Qatar on Monday night), Hunt used more forceful language toward the president.

It’s an interesting move, because though he’s foreign minister, he’s also currently the underdog in a two-person race to replace May as the next prime minister. Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London and former foreign secretary, is the current frontrunner.

Hunt has been trying to contrast himself with the bombastic and brash Johnson by painting himself as the more serious candidate and the one who’s better equipped to go back to the European Union and somehow secure a better Brexit deal.

Whether the EU will renegotiate a Brexit deal at all is another story entirely, but Hunt’s argument is going to be that he’s tough and strong enough to get the EU to the table. And standing up to Trump — who also happens to be deeply unpopular in the UK — isn’t a bad start.

Johnson, meanwhile, said earlier Tuesday that he had a “good relationship with the White House” and that he had “no embarrassment saying that.”

He demurred a bit on Trump’s criticism of May, according to the Guardian, saying he, too, has been critical of her handling of Brexit — and that’s why he’s running for prime minister.

Johnson also touted the importance of the US-UK alliance, which, for some in Britain, will be even more critical after the UK leaves the EU, particularly when it comes to trade and political cooperation.

Johnson and Hunt will participate in their first debate later Tuesday, and it seems a good bet that l’affaire de leaked cables will come up. As the Daily Mirror’s political editor Pippa Crerar pointed out, if Johnson doesn’t get a little tougher on the US president, “he’ll look a Trump lapdog.”

Trump, meanwhile, has previously said Johnson would make a great prime minister, though he had nice things to say about both Johnson and Hunt when he visited London last month.

Somehow, someway, it doesn’t seem like Trump will feel so warmly toward Hunt now. Which he’ll probably confirm on Twitter shortly.