Whoever wins the US presidential election on November 3, Britain has to work with them – so it is common sense for No 10 to try to build bridges with Joe Biden. The polls point to a Democrat victory, although we have been here before. Hillary Clinton led Donald Trump handsomely in 2016, only for Mr Trump to pull off an electoral college upset. The polls in critical swing states remain relatively competitive.
There is an assumption that a Biden victory would reset international relations after the drama of the Trump years and, yes, Mr Biden has a calmer temperament and a stronger commitment to free trade. But Mr Trump was right about Iran and China, and is chalking up foreign policy wins even as he approaches the finishing line: Sudan is the latest Arab League state expected to normalise relations with Israel. Foreign policy barely featured in the debates and Mr Trump’s economic achievements have been set back by the virus. A fair hearing for the strengths of his administration, as well as its weaknesses, has been denied to him.
Britain needs to negotiate a strong trade deal with the United States, of the kind brokered with Japan. If Mr Trump wins a second term, there will be political capital to exploit: he is far more pro-Brexit than Mr Biden, whose party is generally opposed to Brexit and seems to imagine that it threatens the Northern Ireland peace process, which is quite false.
The special relationship is never automatic. Our countries have history and sympathies, but personality is also key to the Atlantic alliance. Boris Johnson will need to convince the next president that this partnership is indispensable, not only to the UK but to the United States.