Those who’re wondering why Donald Trump is favouring Britain with his presence should read Anne Applebaum’s assessment in the Washington Post. (Click here for the piece or just read on – this blog will give you a sense of what she says.)
It might seem a mystery that the US president (any US president) would want to visit a country that is, as Ms Applebaum writes, “in the grip of an unprecedented political meltdown”. The British prime minister is set to leave office within days, the main political parties seem out of favour with the voters and “the government has ceased to make decisions of any kind”.
Clearly, as Ms Applebaum points out, Mr Trump is not coming to London “to conduct any important business, to do any deals or negotiate any treaties: There isn’t anybody to negotiate with.”
His presence won’t “enhance the fabled, albeit somewhat shopworn, Anglo-American relationship” either. Quite the reverse. “His last visit to Britain was a PR catastrophe. He insulted the prime minister, he embarrassed Queen Elizabeth II, and he even managed to annoy the Sun newspaper, a Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid … At the time of his last visit, 77 per cent of Britons disapproved of the US president, and there is no reason to think those numbers have improved.”
So, why’s he coming?
Britain expects nothing from him.
Trump’s America will get little of what it wants from Britain.
(Mr Trump has said he wants to meet Brexiteer Nigel Farage while here, something the British government has not taken kindly to. He has also violated diplomatic protocol by inserting himself, ahead of the visit, in the ongoing leadership battle within the governing Conservative Party by expressing support for Boris Johnson!)
So, tell me again, why is Mr Trump inflicting himself on the UK? As Ms Applebaum says, he is so toxic in Britain, “the leaders of the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties have said they will not attend a state banquet in his honor. The duchess of Sussex — the British royal family member formerly known as the American actress Meghan Markle — has also indicated that she will not meet the president of the United States.”
But the rest of the royal family will do their duty.
And that, as Ms Applebaum says, is the point.
“Trump will not accomplish anything, either for the United States or for Britain. But he will achieve something that is, for him, actually more important. He will be photographed with some uniquely recognizable, world-class celebrities: the queen, Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Harry. They will all be there, doing their duty, because they have to. And Trump’s compulsive, narcissistic need to be the center of attention will be serviced.”
Sounds about right. Before Britain, Mr Trump went to another tea-drinking island monarchy – Japan – for much the same purpose, as she writes. “He got to be the first foreign leader photographed standing next to Japan’s recently crowned emperor and empress. Other than that, he spent the entire trip tweeting about his political enemies back home.”
My only problem, as someone who pays tax in the UK and the US is the waste of government money.
Ms Applebaum writes: “The British state will spend 18 million pounds (about $22 million) on his security; the US taxpayer will spend many multiples of that sum; hundreds of hours will have been wasted on planning. And all so that one man’s fragile ego can be boosted for another day.”