It’s been less than two weeks since Donald Trump was inaugurated as US President, and already the world has got into a familiar ritual. You switch on your laptop or mobile phone, see the news, and splutter your tea or coffee all over the screen at his latest moral outrage and how it’s all perfectly fine with hand holding Theresa May. Apparently the special relationship means maintaining an undignified silence when the orange skinned one is acting like a two year old who is throwing his spaghetti hoops on the floor and covering everyone with tomato sauce, and then claiming that the sauce on your face is lipstick which is in fact a fashion statement. British style, it’s a world leader you know. It’s not so much a special relationship as stalking your old school crush at their wedding, and claiming that they still love you because they occasionally glance in your direction with a look of pity.
Fortunately not everyone in the UK is as blindly enamoured with the small handed one as Theresa is. A petition to prevent Trump making a state visit to the UK had received over 1,250,000 signatures by early Monday afternoon. It’s probably a lot more by now. Many people were unhappy with how the petition was phrased, saying as it did that the state visit should be cancelled in order to prevent embarrassment to the Queen. Precious few of us care about whether the Queen is embarrassed or not, but we do care quite a lot about causing maximum embarrassment to Donald Trump.
It must be galling for him to know that in the space of 24 hours, in a country with a population one fifth of that of the USA, five times as many people signed a petition demanding his state visit be cancelled as turned up at his inauguration. But then the people who signed it are probably illegal Mexicans. And there were loads more people who weren’t counted at the inauguration. All that white space around the Capitol in the aerial photies wasn’t empty, it was really chock full of Trump supporters. It’s just you couldn’t see them because of the robes and hoods.
Despite the fact that a state visit for the Donald is as popular as Nigel Farage in an Edinburgh pub, Theresa May isn’t disposed to change her mind. She even used her favourite phrase “to be very clear”, which is the phrase she always uses when she’s dissembling and being as clear as Donald’s skin underneath the plastered on layers of fake tan. This is a phrase that she loves even more than her phrase that it’s not a binary choice, but her office issued an alternative fact when the petition reached 1,000,000 saying that this time it was binary, and so only 64 people had actually signed it. Which is approximately the same number of people who aren’t fully paid up members of Ukip who support her plans for Brexit.
“To be clear,” said a statement from Theresa, “the Prime Minister extended an invitation on behalf of the Queen – and she was happy to do so. The USA is one of this country’s closest allies, and we look forward to hosting the President later in the year.”
To be clear, there’s a deliberate ambiguity in the “and she was happy to do so” phrase. Who was happy to do so? It’s phrased in such a way to imply that it was Liz who was happy to invite the Donald and Theresa was just passing on the invite. Because the Queen decides all by herself who she wants to come along on a state jolly and it’s got nothing to do with who the Prime Minister wants to invite. And if you believe that then Donald Trump has a really great deal for you for a golf course that’s going to create bazillions of jobs and delight the neighbouring property owners. We live in a world where the Prime Minister wants us to believe that Liz gave her a phone call just before she jetted off to hold Donald’s hand as he negotiated a few steps and told her that she’d like nothing more than inviting him to the palace so that the servants could spend the days after his visit trying to get the fake tan off the 100% Egyptian cotton pillowcases. And besides, she’d like nothing more than Melania to plagiarise one of her speeches too. It’s not fair that Michelle Obama gets all the recognition.
What it really means of course is, “To be clear, Theresa doesn’t give a toss how many people sign a petition.” And, “To be clear, these official government online petitions have even less validity than the Sewel Convention.” To be very clear, Theresa doesn’t give a toss what anyone else thinks about anything. She doesn’t care that slightly over 48% of the voting population wanted to remain in the EU, and a significant number of those who voted to leave were labouring under the apprehension that by voting out they were not voting to leave the single market or voting to export their jobs to the continent and voting to devalue the pound so that it’s trading on a par with the Albanian lek. She certainly doesn’t care that the only people who support her plans in Scotland are Tories who require special seats in the Scottish parliament because they’ve had their spines removed. So she’s certainly not going to worry over much about an online petition.
Theresa May’s crawlathon over the Atlantic, her refusal to condemn Trump’s racism, and her eagerness to ingratiate herself with an unstable narcissist, show the reality of the special relationship. That’s a relationship that’s so special that most Americans don’t know it exists. It’s only British politicians and media figures who ever mention it. It shows the weakness and debility of a Britain which has voted to isolate itself from Europe and is now trying to sook up to the big bully in the schoolyard in the desperate hope that he’ll bully someone else. So that’s what punching above our weight really means. It means hoping that someone else is going to get punched. It’s not so much a special relationship as a specious one.
Audio version of this blog post, courtesy of Sarah Mackie @lumi_1984 https://soundcloud.com/occamshaver/wee-ginger-dug-30th-jan-2017
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