There have been some voices today, from the usual quarters, pointing out past occasions when the Queen has been forced to endure the company of odious tyrants. The point they’re trying to make, of course, is that Donald Trump should be allowed to have his state visit.
Conservative apologist Iain Dale lists Nicolae Ceausescu in 1978, Robert Mugabe in 1994, Bashar al-Assad in 2002, Vladimir Putin in 2003, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in 2007 and China’s Xi Jinping in 2015. He neglects to mention the ex-IRA commander Gerry Adams in 2015. The argument seems to be that the Queen has met monsters before, what’s one more? First let me say I’m glad to hear Conservative voices putting Trump among the company he deserves — it’s an admission, of sorts, of what he is.
Now let me point out why this occasion is different. Many of these past visits were attempts to build bridges with countries we’ve not traditionally enjoyed good relations with, or whose values don’t resemble our own; democracy, tolerance and free speech. I don’t necessarily agree that this is a good idea, but that’s the aim.
The United States, however, is a country with which we have long had good relations. It’s a country whose values have long been recognisable to us as similar to our own. Under Donald Trump, that is changing. He is a tyrant ruling by executive order, flouting the judiciary and openly lying to his people. He has vowed to demolish the constitution he pledged to defend. He’s a self-confessed sex pest, so soaked in tawdry allegations that we’ve ceased to notice the stench. A thin-skinned vainglorious idiot who blacklists whole peoples from the land where “huddled masses” have long aspired to freedom. And don’t get me started on his cabinet.
His state visit will be no bridge-building exercise, comparable to the examples above. We have no hope of affecting a positive change by our good example. This man is running roughshod over the values our countries have long shared and, by inviting him now — in record time for a post-war president — we are endorsing him. This is made abundantly clear by the deafening silence from Downing Street about his de-facto Muslim ban. It’s not what we would do, they pathetically mewl. They promise UK exemption from the ban, even as the US embassy in London denies it.
There’s a reason for this: Theresa May is in a position of weakness unusual for a UK Prime Minister and it all comes down to Brexit. This calamitous decision to leave the European Union, the world’s largest economy and our biggest trading partner, has forced us to drag our begging bowl across the pond to this Toytown Hitler. Is this taking back control?
I note also that Nigel Farage, the privately-educated ex-stockbroker who crusaded for Brexit while moaning (hilariously) about the elite, is now calling for a similar “Muslim ban” here. This sort of politics is the baggage of Brexit and we will hear more of it as this madcap scheme continues. I think we can also safely dispatch with the notion that the driving principle of UKIP is some sort of libertarian streak; no, it’s the same old bigotry we all thought it was.
“They think the Queen can’t cope with Trump,” says Mr Dale. Nonsense, the Queen has coped with fascists all her life. But we should have enough respect for ourselves and the USA, that she shouldn’t be exposed to a fascist American president.