Ok – let’s get one thing straight. I loathe Donald Trump.
He is a misogynistic, boorish buffoon with disturbing tendencies towards white supremacism and a somewhat cavalier attitude to the truth. His administration has already removed some protections for LGBT+ people, and a ban on trans people in the military is being enacted, albeit in the face of some opposition from within the Pentagon.
Mr Trump is also the democratically elected President of the United States, the world’s largest economy with which this country has a long history of trade, intelligence co-operation and friendship between its peoples. America is also, for the moment at least, the largest single contributor to NATO, the organisation which, with its all for one and one for all constitution, guarantees strong defences for Europe in the face of, for some countries at least, ever-dwindling defence budgets.
This, I know, will cause the naïve among us to wonder why we can’t all live in peace and build more schools and hospitals with the money we spend on tanks and fighter planes, but if history has taught us anything it is that long periods of peace always come to an end, and that the aggressor will always single out the weak. Sorry, not nice, but there it is.
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of an opposition which remains behind in the polls despite the Government’s complete disarray, has had his say. He doesn’t think Mr Trump should have been invited to the United Kingdom because he isn’t a very nice man. Mr Corbyn is the man who has entertained Hamas, Hezbollah and – at the height of the Troubles – the IRA at Parliament, so wherever our political sympathies lie, it is difficult to see past the opportunism and hypocrisy of the MP for Islington North.
Let us be clear, Mr Trump is in the United Kingdom not for the man he is, but for the office he holds. Yes, we may have to hold our noses while we deal with him, but deal with him we must. Many people wish that this were not the case, but it is, and floating a stupid, frankly embarrassing inflatable balloon over London will not change anything.
There are others who say, fair enough, let the two governments work together, but should we be treating Mr Trump to a bells and whistles visit to Windsor Castle? Well, let’s take a look at the Heads of State who have been given this honour in recent years.
First out of the traps, the King of Saudi Arabia. Say no more. Similarly, the leaders of the UAE and Qatar, hardly known for their human rights records, not to mention – in the case of Qatar – the widely condemned use of near slave labour in constructing World Cup stadia for the 2022 tournament. As recently as May, Mr Erdogan of Turkey paid Her Majesty a visit, although I doubt they discussed his imprisonment of the thousands of journalists and academics who have spoken out against his regime. And let us not forget the President of China, hardly a beacon of democracy and respect for the individual.
Where was Mr Corbyn then? Where was the infantile inflatable? Where were all the shouty student-types when the king of a country which stones adulterers to death IN PUBLIC took tea at Windsor?
I’ll tell you what I think is happening, and some of you may not like it. I believe that certain elements of the Left are increasingly occupying a political space which is inherently anti-capitalist, anti-west and anti-American.
All of a sudden, we are the bad guys. Not the countries which outlaw homosexuality and punish ‘sodomy’ with death, not the countries which ban opposition political parties, or which call for the State of Israel to be wiped off the map, or where a woman can’t go outside without a man to escort her. The same people shout ‘conspiracy’ when the British media report Russian involvement in the Salisbury poisonings, conveniently forgetting that Mr Putin has recently annexed Crimea and has his troops encamped in a neighbouring, sovereign state so can hardly be said to be especially honourable himself. Still, if the nasty right-wing British press says something, the opposite must be true.
Not only is the balloon puerile, it is ultimately counter-productive. Like it or not, it is now the globally-viewed symbol of the British protests against Donald Trump. Yes folks, this is the image that will be disseminated by the world’s media. Not measured argument, not the thoughtful and forensic challenging of ideas, but the country – the world’s oldest democracy – which gave us Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights and, for that matter, the abolitionist movement reduced to expressing its political views via a blow-up balloon depicting the President of the United States as a baby.