Having known a succession of non-bedroom flats as home during the past 15-20 years, I’ve been deprived of one conundrum that those with a ‘spare’ are occasionally faced with – the visitor who stops overnight and then extends his stay to several days. I’m sure the majority of these are welcome guests who are sincerely invited to treat the place like their own; and I’m equally sure this majority are courteous visitors who volunteer to do the washing-up. Surely not all take the piss – emptying the fridge of its contents and leaving the bathroom a bombsite of wet towels and poo balls, for example.
Uncle Donald’s long-trumpeted state visit is, I suppose, the dreaded scenario of the embarrassing overseas relative whose brief return to the mother country has been made easier (for him) by the emotional blackmail he employed to secure the spare room for three days. Families, eh? He’ll probably want to be introduced to your circle, even though you’ll spend the whole excruciating meeting hoping he doesn’t say something racist or grope your girlfriend; and after just one night of being bombarded by his braggadocio bluster, your pounding head will be pleading with you to concoct an excuse that will force him into finding a hotel ASAP. ‘I know, it’s dreadful; but the bloody landlord says he needs to hire out the premises for an Icelandic jazz festival tomorrow. There’s nothing I can do about it.’
No, I’m not keen on Donald Trump; I never have been. I think he’s a boorish, charmless, combative, coarse vulgarian. But I will say the fact he pisses off a lot of people who piss me off tickles my funny bone – far more than the puerile playground response of some to his presence on these shores. Hell, I’m no stranger to the puerile playground, as the video accompanying this post once again demonstrates; but when Dubya flew-in and raised similar hackles a few years back, the protests against his visit – at a time when war in Iraq was ongoing – were grounded in something substantial and seemed to have a genuinely valid politicised edge to them. I mean, a baby blimp? Come on – is this the best we can manage now? I suppose a giant cock only visible from the air could be said to be in the vein of traditional English humour; but it still feels like the nation is dropping its trousers and desperately mooning Air Force One because it can’t articulate its objections better than a five-year-old.
Despite Sadiq Khan’s attempts to promote the capital as though it’s one long Pride parade, the appalling roll-call of murders on the streets of London during his mayoral tenure – let alone in the six months of 2019 so far – really should focus his attention away from Twitter spats with a man who does this for a living. The public petulance of the London Mayor – not to mention the Leader of HM Opposition – is also counterproductive; Mr President draws most of his political strength and support from playing the outsider up against the establishment, and were leading Labour figures not so preoccupied with signalling their collective virtue, they’d realise their attitude is playing right into the Donald’s tiny hands.
Worse still, building up Trump to be the towering monster he likes to see himself portrayed as serves to make his predecessor in the White House look better than he actually was, conveniently airbrushing his less attractive legacies from the record books. The former drone-happy President was also guilty of sticking his nose into Brexit business last time he was here, but all has been forgotten during the wistful longing for the nauseating hero-worship that followed Obama around the UK like a gaggle of weak-kneed teenyboppers. I’m pretty sure Theresa May would love her final moment as PM to be flipping burgers in the back garden at No.10 with the ‘cool President’, but it ain’t gonna happen. She’d probably burn them to an inedible frazzle, anyway.
Mrs May can leave the wining and dining this time round to Her Majesty, and Brenda certainly has the experience, playing hostess to some exceedingly dodgy characters over the decades – everyone from Idi Amin and Robert Mugabe to the Shah of Iran and Nicolae Ceauseşcu; and let’s not forget Brian’s buddies in the Saudi royal family. Compared to that notable rogue’s gallery, Trump is Nelson Mandela. We really should put him into perspective, but the febrile climate in Blighty at the moment isn’t very conducive to perspective, alas – witness the casual dispensing of meaningful historical terms like ‘Nazi’ and ‘Fascist’ so they are reduced to meaningless insults on a par with ‘knob-head’ or ‘wanker’.
Trump’s behaviour so far – including his retort to Sadiq Khan before he even set foot on British soil – is entirely in keeping with the man, so nobody should feign surprise or outrage. Boris Johnson’s uncharacteristically low profile at the moment – a deliberate tactic to avoid the fate that always befalls the early favourite in a Tory leadership contest, one suspects – could probably do without the endorsement of the President, mind. Nigel Farage has less to lose, though being seen in the same light as Piers Morgan when it comes to one’s choice of friends isn’t the best boost either man’s aspirations could wish for at such a crucial juncture.
One of Trump’s duties before he departs is to be present at a commemorative ceremony in Portsmouth, marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Landings. The last time D-Day was marked on such a grand scale ten years ago, Gordon Brown as PM practically had to invite himself to Normandy when Nicolas Sarkozy’s ego and eagerness to be photographed alongside Obama implied the British RSVP had got lost in the post. The former Co-Prince of Andorra might have neglected to remember, but the opening shot of liberating Nazi-occupied Europe was pretty much an Anglo-American operation at the western end; it’s therefore only right and proper that whoever happens to be the incumbent US President should be present on such a significant occasion, and the event being marked should override any personal gripes with the man occupying the office. If anything is capable of really putting 2019 into perspective, remembering 1944 should be – shouldn’t it?
© The Editor