Foreign secretary William Hague will represent the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat government in the US today as he makes his first foreign trip since the coalition was agreed.
Mr Hague, a former Tory leader and long-time shadow foreign secretary, said he decided to journey first to Washington after receiving a phonecall from his American counterpart Hillary Clinton shortly after taking office. The US secretary of state Clinton had previously forged a close working relationship with Mr Hague’s predecessor David Miliband.
But Mr Hague was always certain to make Washington his first destination as foreign secretary. The new foreign secretary has already highlighted Afghanistan and Iran as his top two priorities.
“Iran‘s behaviour in recent years has been unacceptable to the great majority of the international community and that will be one of the subjects of my first international visit which will be to see Hillary Clinton later this week,” he told Sky News this week.
“We have spoken. Mrs Clinton was my first caller on the telephone.”
The Tories and Lib Dems, especially the latter, had been vocal in their criticism of the previous Labour administrations of aligning themselves too closely to the US.
But Robin Niblett, the director of Chatham House, said he doubted the change of government would have a tangible effect on US-British relations.
“Intelligence and counterterrorism cooperation and regular discussion over operational planning and political strategy in Afghanistan will ensure that officials and political leaders retain elements of the ‘special relationship’ into the next UK government,” he said.
Since Barack Obama came to power in January 2009 Britain has been lower down on the Washington agenda, although the president has repeatedly championed the special relationship the two countries enjoy.
While the UK has more troops in Afghanistan than any other Nato member save the US, London has little relevance to American policy in China, India, Brazil or Russia.
Britain remains firmly behind the US in its criticism of Iran‘s disputed nuclear policy, while its stance on Israel is also broadly in line with Washington’s.
The Foreign Office has said that Mr Hague’s next trip after the US would be to an EU member state.
In his conference speech last year Mr Hague said while the Tories would preserve the special relationship with the US they also wanted new alliances with India and China.