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Labour courts leading Republicans in readiness for Trump presidency

Presidential candidate Donald Trump with his former secretary of state Mike Pompeo
Presidential candidate Donald Trump with his former secretary of state Mike Pompeo - ALEX WONG/GETTY

Labour is forging links with key Republicans in preparation for the potential return of Donald Trump to the White House.

The shadow foreign secretary David Lammy has held talks with the ex-secretary of state Mike Pompeo, while the influential conservative pollster Frank Luntz hosted Labour during a visit to Washington DC last year.

A senior Labour source said that the party was cultivating personal relationships to provide a “better understanding if we do get into government”.

Voters in the UK and US are both heading to the polls this year with the strong chance of a change of government in both countries.

In the UK, Labour has a double-digit polling lead over the Conservatives, while in America Mr Trump is the favourite to win the Republican nomination and currently leads Joe Biden in key swing states.

Mr Pompeo is widely respected across all parties
Mr Pompeo is widely respected across all parties - JOE SKIPPER/REUTERS

Labour’s natural political soulmates are in the Democratic Party, with Sir Keir Starmer frequently seeking inspiration from President Biden’s policy agenda.

However, the party is actively preparing for the scenario of a Republican victory in November.

Much of the engagement is being led by Mr Lammy. As well as enjoying a friendship with Condoleeza Rice, who served as George W Bush’s secretary of state, the shadow foreign secretary has held talks with figures who have moved in Mr Trump’s orbit, such as Nadia Schadlow, who was his deputy national security adviser.

Mr Lammy has also spoken in recent weeks to Mr Pompeo, who served as director of the CIA between 2017 and 2018 and secretary of state from 2018 to 2021.

A source said that the conversation between the two men was “friendly and warm”.

Keir Starmer is unlikely to be on the same political wavelength as Donald Trump
Keir Starmer is unlikely to be on the same political wavelength as Donald Trump - IAN FORSYTH/GETTY

In a visit to Washington last September, Mr Lammy and the shadow defence secretary John Healey met both Republican and Democrat congressmen in a meeting organised by Dr Luntz.

The meeting is said to have included some “full throated Trump supporters”.

Dr Luntz told The Telegraph that he had acted as a matchmaker to “ensure that the dialogue has started if Labour should be successful”.

The veteran political strategist said the event had been “very positive”, with any splits on show confined to the Americans in the room.

“The conversation they had was substantial, and the disagreements came among the Americans,” he said. “I watched [Mr Lammy and Mr Healey], they were smiling at it, that the Republicans and Democrats were disagreeing far more than any dispute between the US and the UK.

“They were very clear about their eagerness to get to know politicians on both sides and their desire to make this relationship work. I was really impressed, and I was kind of embarrassed about how the Americans behaved.”

Smart move

Dr Luntz said Labour’s decision to open communications with Mr Pompeo was “a smart move” because he is “legitimately respected across the political spectrum, by Trump Republicans, other Republicans and Democrats as well”.

He added: “It really is essential that these discussions happen, because in the end, it is 50/50 that Donald Trump’s back and it’s more than 50/50 that Labour takes over.”

He said that on certain issues, the transatlantic relationship would be “a challenge”. “A Trump administration would not be as engaged in Ukraine as Biden is,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any difference on the Middle East, but they need to understand the challenge of an America First policy.”

A senior Labour source said that while the overriding focus is on the election, the party is also “preparing for day one if we do manage to win”.

The source said that engagement with US politicians was aimed at “forging the relations that may be important for better communication, better understanding if we do get into government, so we have those personal relations and don’t simply rely on the government machine”.

“[America] will remain our most important ally, and the UK has got to remain the US’s closest security ally,” they added.

Strains

An ally of Mr Trump said there were “very few” British politicians he saw eye to eye with “outside of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson”.

While Mr Trump was unlikely to have “political sympathy” with Sir Keir, the source said that a potential relationship could be “salvaged” from “the president’s love for the UK as a nation”.

Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Centre at the Washington-based Heritage Foundation think-tank, agreed there were likely to be strains.

“It would be very, very different to the relation between George W. Bush and Tony Blair, for example, and the dynamic could be miles apart,” he said.

Jason Miller, a Trump campaign spokesman, said his team had not begun conversations with Labour.

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