PRESIDENT Donald Trump lands in the United Kingdom, the most powerful man in the world, representing the most powerful ally of the country, and yet he and his premiership will be scorned, placed under ridicule, preened over by a distinct middle class snobbery that makes the country appear utterly fatuous and out of step with diplomatic protocol and geopolitical relations.
Other than commemorating D-Day at the invitation of The Queen no less, Mr Trump will meet members of the Royal Family, and is expected to discuss climate change and Chinese technology firm Huawei during talks with outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May.
Cue the pointed protests from the sneering chattering classes and one Mayor Sadiq Khan who seems determined on portraying the city and country as holier than thou.How dare one man, elected by the public be allowed to embarrass the city and country with his mean, narrow-minded viewpoint? He does not speak for everyone.
The inanity about balloons aside, most people are just a little nonplussed about citizens of another country taking a work day to protest someone else’s President.
The purpose of all these protests, I assume, is to convince the American electorate to reverse course and vote Republicans out of power. While I’m curious about other country’s opinions, this won’t move the needle for any moderate voters.
Then of course there is the startling hypocrisy on offer. Surely the thousands of British Never Trumpers would be brought to their feet to protest against Theresa May, against Windrush, against the despotic Saudi Arabian monarchy who continue to truly mistreat Muslims, to repress, behead and starve them through war and famine in Yemen? No marches of this size and capacity against MBS it seems. Nor will similar time and effort be expended against President Erodgan, who continues to persecute journalists and slaughter Kurds.
This is just a preening, self righteous rent-a-mob whose empty lives are brightened up by childish stunts, and maybe their faux-furious face will be on television even if it is just glimpsed in the crowd. Strangely, visits from the likes of Robert Mugabe, people with real blood on their hands, pass without protest. President Trump’s problem is that he’s a white, rich American with an ego and no-nonsense views on immigration. That makes him the spawn of the devil to liberals in the US and the virtue-signalling chattering classes in the UK. The protesters do not represent any significant proportion of the UK population. The President’s best option would be to have his picture taken with that ridiculous balloon in the background.
Other than the most glaring fact that we must never forget what a Nation sacrificed for us and always should welcome its representative, there is the small matter of ensuring that the United Kingdom fosters a strong relationship with its most powerful ally post-Brexit. The POTUS is, to all intents and purposes, leader of the free Western democratic world, and Commander in Chief of NATO and of every armed coalition which includes the UK.
Therefore, he has much more influence over the UK than, say, Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping, also more than any individual EU leader.
At a time when Brexit is on the horizon and our relationships with the non EU world are critical, a President who will place America ahead of a special relationship is a major concern if we continue to antagonize him. The UK government has banked a great deal on the ability to negotiate a favourable and quick trade deal with the US.
Instead of aligning oneself with the venting and therapeutic screaming from those who detest anything outside of the world of their prevailing orthodoxy, let’s think about why The Queen has invited POTUS.
We don’t normally think of hospitality as a part of governmental business, but it is, and very important it is. Relaxing over a nice meal allows officials to interact with one another in a less pressured context. They get to know one another and build relationships. This translates directly into more effective governance. Or worse, as the case may be.
The practice of social diplomacy is an ancient responsibility of royalty—one of the most famous is known by its lavishness, The Field of the Cloth of Gold, a summit between Henry VIII and Francis I of France. Historically, England and France were more often at each other’s throats than not—the Field of the Cloth of Gold was intended to celebrate the Anglo-French entente of 1514 and to solidify and extend the bonds of peace.
The State Dinners hosted by the Queen are work for her. This is not her idea of a fun party.
When the government of the United Kingdom wants something, they can ask for it directly, but it sure helps to soften the target before making the request. This is when they deploy their most formidable asset, The Queen. The government asks The Queen to give a dinner in honor of the target, and she does. As simple as that. The government will provide a list of people they want invited, and Buckingham Palace will add some names.
The prime minister, the speaker of the House of Commons, the leader of the opposition and their spice will be invited. So will the American Ambassador. Luminaries from stage, screen, and the arts may be included, and the White House will be asked if they have anybody they’d like included. Members of the extended Royal Family will be present. (Though, because of the president’s ugly remarks about the late Princess of Wales , in this case I do not expect the Cambridges or Sussexs to be present. Polite excuses will be provided.)
The Queen will, with her staff, work out a program designed to flatter and please the president. Everyone will dress in their finest. Music will be carefully selected—a rendition of “New York, New York”, perhaps, as a tribute to the president’s home state. It is possible that American wine may be served during the course of the meal. If he has a favorite dish, that may be served. (IIRC, the president is a bit of a gourmet despite his fondness for McDonald’s. So the Palace chefs may enjoy a rare opportunity to do something fancier than the plain fare the royals generally prefer.) The Queen will offer a fulsome toast, and the president will have an opportunity to reply. Official gifts will be exchanged, and there will be a display of items carefully selected from the Royal Collection, the Royal Archives, and the Royal Library.
Everyone will treat the president with absolute courtesy. No one from the Royal Family to the lowliest footman will betray their personal feelings in the slightest. This will be not a, but the Master Class in soft diplomacy.
The sneering snobs in the United Kingdom who wish to pour scorn on an entire country and its representatives would do well to pay careful attention.