Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

The Last Word: very stable genius

Holding hands with the school bully will not stop him taking our lunch money, argues Robert Philpot

Theresa May’s infamous ice cold death stare can reportedly chill a room and put Cabinet ministers who displease her in their place without a word passing her lips.

Sadly, it’s unlikely that Donald Trump was on the receiving end of it when the prime minister discovered – presumably at some point during their reported ‘love fest’ amid the splendour of Blenheim Palace last night – that he had comprehensively trashed her in an interview in today’s Sun newspaper.

The words were extraordinary – even for Trump. He joined those questioning whether May’s pitch for a softer Brexit is what the public voted for at the referendum; suggested that the foreign secretary who quit her government just four days ago would make ‘a great prime minister’; and nixed talk of a trade agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States. ‘If they do a deal like that we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal,’ the president suggested. Then, for good measure, he gratuitiously added: ‘I would have done it much differently. I actually told Theresa May how to do it but she didn’t agree, she didn’t listen to me.’ As ever, it is Trump’s giant ego that is the centre of every story.

As David Frum, George W Bush’s former speechwriter and a vociferous conservative opponent of Trump’s noted: ‘A more normal US president would have already accepted responsibility for the EU–UK problem as a major foreign policy challenge—and would have intervened to help America’s friends on both sides of the impasse. But Trump is not normal.’

In typical fashion, the government has responded limply to this insult, pointing journalists to a White House statement, which appears to have been composed by a five-year-old, in which the president affirms that he thinks May is a ‘very good person’ and, against all available evidence, claims he has ‘never said anything bad about her’.

May has only herself to blame. Her unseemly dash to Washington shortly after Trump’s inauguration – during which she sought to dodge questions about the new president’s assertion that ‘torture works’ – has set a pattern of grovelling obsequiousness for which she has received scant reward.

The prime minister could, of course, have used the fact that Trump chose to go after the mayor of London hours after his city had experienced a terrorist attack – an insult repeated in today’s Sun interview – to withdraw the invitation to visit.

Or she could have chosen the moment when he retweeted British fascists – unsurprising given his evident appreciation for American neo-Nazis.

But instead of displaying the kind of dignity Angela Merkel displayed this week when Trump attacked Germany, the prime minister’s condemnation has consisted of barely audible squeaks.

So now, as Trump fires pot shots at her, the prime minister is left to put on her best rictus grin. Luckily for her, the president’s work ethic means that he’ll spend most of his time on British soil playing golf.

And to think, it’s only a decade ago that the press spent reams of newsprint pondering the state of the special relationship after Barack Obama chose to meet Gordon Brown in a kitchen at a UN summit.

Lies, damned lies, and Lincoln

In the unlikely event you planned to give a shred of credence to any of the claims Trump makes to the Sun, just consider this one fact. The president boasted that: ‘A poll just came out that I am the most popular person in the history of the Republican party — 92 per cent. Beating Lincoln. I beat our Honest Abe.’ As Josh Barro, a senior editor at Business Insider magazine pointed out, Abraham Lincoln died a decade before the telephone was invented and about eight decades before presidential approval polling began.

Tsk, Tsk 

Kate Hoey, the Labour member of parliament for Vauxhall and Nigel Farage’s campaigning buddy, took aim this week at EU president Donald Tusk. ‘Is it any wonder that the EU is so despised with men like Tusk as a president,’ she tweeted. ‘He just doesn’t get democracy.’

It’s a shame Hoey doesn’t know a little more about modern Polish history. As a 13-year-old, Tusk watched troops firing on protesters, while his mother, a nurse, tended to the wounded. At university, he was heavily involved with the underground opposition to communism, helping to found the students’ solidarity committee. Such activities could have fatal consequences: the committee was formed following the secret police’s murder of student activist Stanislaw Pyjas. After the imposition of martial law, Tusk lost his job and he and his pregnant wife were evicted from their home. He was also briefly imprisoned.

Tusk needs no lectures about the meaning of democracy from the likes of Hoey.


Robert Philpot is a contributing editor to Progress, and writes the weekly Last Word column. He tweets at @Robert_Philpot


Photo: by The White House from Washington, DC (Foreign Leader Visits) [Public domain]

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Robert Philpot

is a contributing editor to Progress magazine and former director of Progress

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