Problems with the proposed Trump Visit
It seems that some people in Downing Street and the White House are trying to rescue the proposed Trump State Visit to the UK. The Telegraph had this: “Donald Trump’s state visit to UK may be moved from London to Brexit heartland amid security concerns“. Interestingly, the online article had an embedded opinion poll and, at breakfast time, 57% of respondents did not wish the Trump visit to go ahead at all.
The article was written by the Torygraph’s Chief Political Correspondent who undoubtedly has a very good idea of what is being considered in Downing Street. He wrote:-
“Trump advisers and senior Foreign Office figures have discussed how to save the controversial visit. One idea, which has been suggested to the White House, is for President Trump to address a rally in Birmingham where the audience would pay to enter, with profits going to the Royal British Legion…. One source close to the president said: “It would be his biggest rally with 85,000 people coming together to celebrate the US-UK special relationship. If he is not speaking to the Houses of Parliament, let’s go to the people. The only person who gets screwed is the Speaker of the House of Commons.“
In other words this is stage management. Put together a selected ticket only audience. Make sure the tickets only go to supporters. Make sure everything looks good on TV.
But why should Birmingham be the stooge? One of the biggest issues making a Trump visit nationally unpopular is his Islamophobia.
According to the 2011 census, there are 2.7 million Muslims in the UK, 47.2% of which are UK born. 24.8% of the population of Birmingham identify as Muslim – double the London percentage. How many Birmingham Muslims will support a Trump visit there ?
Indeed, how many supporters of the Royal British Legion would support a staged Trump event in Birmingham ?
This is a report in the Birmingham Mail: “The ‘forgotten’ army of 400,000 Muslim soldiers who fought in Great War trenches for Britain – Birmingham pupils to be taught about bravery of Indian troops – and then interview their descendants“.
As the article points out: one of the Muslim heros of WW1 was Khudadad Khan VC of the 129th Duke of Connaught’s Own Baluchis.
A very large number of those Trump sought to exclude from the USA were people who served with the US Army and its allies (i.e including UK forces) in various theatres, notably Afghanistan and Iraq.
One would hope that supporters of the Royal British Legion would bear in mind this article in the Independent: “Victoria Cross recipient Johnson Beharry ‘humiliated’ by Trump ‘Muslim ban’ – ‘I explained that I had been in Iraq fighting for the British Army but they didn’t seem to care’“.
During his campaign, Trump said there were more British Muslims in ISIS than in the Army. This was untrue – See this in the Guardian: “Is Donald Trump right that more British Muslims fight for Isis than the UK army?“.
Helpfully, the Birmingham Mail has this: “You’re welcome in Birmingham, President Trump, but listen and learn from our city”
“Come and meet the people of Britain’s most multicultural city, where we champion everybody’s rights and cherish free speech. Come and meet doctors and nurses of all colours and creeds daily saving lives in our hospitals. Come and meet the car workers of many nationalities who work together on the production lines, helping power the region’s economy. Come and meet pupils eager to learn in classes where more than 40 languages are spoken , and who happily play together. Come and meet the refugees starting new lives in our great city, most of them from the nations you seek to deny entry to the US. We will prove you wrong, just as we proved Enoch Powell wrong after he made his Rivers of Blood speech here in April 1968.”
The Independent Reports: “Donald Trump told he won’t escape the ‘biggest protest in British history’ by moving his state visit – Local politicians in Birmingham have pledged to greet any trip by the President with mass protests“. The article provides assertions from many movers and shakers in Birmingham that any visit by Trump will provoke major demonstrations.
“The cross-party Stop Trump Coalition formed in the wake of those protests. It enjoys support from Labour, SNP, Green and Liberal Democrat MPs – as well as the general secretaries of major trade unions, including Unison, GMB, FBU, RMT, and the TUC.”
Why a State Visit is Premature
It is worth looking at the latest opinion US Polls: Gallup has this for Trump: Approve 40% – Disapprove 55%. PPP has this for Congress: Approve 16% – Disapprove 68%. The Economist and YouGov have these figures for the direction of the USA: Right Direction 31% – Wrong Direction 55% and Reuters/Ipsos have a like poll which differs by only 1 percentage point.
Andrew Sullivan writes in the New York Magazine: “The Madness of King Donald” :-
“I want to start with Trump’s lies. It’s now a commonplace that Trump and his underlings tell whoppers. Fact-checkers have never had it so good. But all politicians lie. Bill Clinton could barely go a day without some shading or parsing of the truth. Richard Nixon was famously tricky. But all the traditional political fibbers nonetheless paid some deference to the truth — even as they were dodging it. They acknowledged a shared reality and bowed to it. They acknowledged the need for a common set of facts in order for a liberal democracy to function at all. Trump’s lies are different. They are direct refutations of reality — and their propagation and repetition is about enforcing his power rather than wriggling out of a political conundrum. They are attacks on the very possibility of a reasoned discourse, the kind of bald-faced lies that authoritarians issue as a way to test loyalty and force their subjects into submission.”
Perhaps we should bear in mind that sometimes the electoral process gets things wrong. History is full of examples of democratic countries ending up with the wrong leader who then has to be replaced, one way or another. The same rule is also true for referenda – which is why they sometimes have to be re-run. The USA and the UK are no exception to that general rule.
That is why in the UK-USA “special relationship” it is generally a good idea to wait and see how a President does before a state visit takes place. Perhaps the Trump visit is premature and should be deferred for a little while then reconsidered in, say, 2 years’ time.