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June 15, 2017

Donald Trump is not welcome in the UK as we try to sort out our own political mess

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Awwww, poor Donald Trump. His state visit to the UK has already been postponed once, and now, as he tries to plan a second go around, things aren’t looking good. According to Patrick Wintour at the Guardian, Trump told British Prime Minister Theresa May in a phone call that he doesn’t want to visit until the British public support him coming. I’m not sure that particular hell is freezing over any time soon.

We don’t even support our own government. Last week saw a shock General Election result in the UK. May called the early election believing her Conservative government would hold its majority, strengthening her hand as Prime Minister. She threw down the gauntlet in a speech last April:

Since I became Prime Minister I have said that there should be no election until 2020, but now I have concluded that the only way to guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead is to hold this election and seek your support for the decisions I must take….

So I have a simple challenge to the opposition parties, you have criticised the Government’s vision for Brexit, you have challenged our objectives, you have threatened to block the legislation we put before Parliament.

This is your moment to show you mean it, to show you are not opposing the Government for the sake of it, to show that you do not treat politics as a game.

Let us tomorrow vote for an election, let us put forward our plans for Brexit and our alternative programmes for government and then let the people decide.

Her tactics backfired spectacularly. While the Conservatives did win more votes than any other party last week, they fell eight seats short of the 326 they needed to continue governing. Amongst the objections to May was her defiant support for not just Brexit, but a “hard” Brexit. May believes pulling the UK out of the EU’s single market is necessary in order to regain control over Britain’s borders and reduce immigration. Paul Stocker, an expert in British far-right history and the author of Melville House UK’s forthcoming English Uprising: Brexit and the Mainstreaming of the Far Right, says, “Immigration was the single biggest issue which influenced the vote to leave and reducing immigration has been the main driver of the government’s Brexit policy since — against all sound economic advice.”

What May seemed to forget is that forty-eight percent of the UK did not vote for Brexit, and during this election, that forty-eighty percent made their voices heard. Over a million young people (aged 18-24) registered to vote for this first time and, according to YouGov, the 30-44 age bracket—which May seems to have taken for granted—saw a major swing from Tories to Labour, with thirty percent of them defecting.

So now in the UK we’re left with a hung parliament. Was does this mean? To form a government, May has to gain the support of another party to control the vaunted 326 seats. But who would want to coalesce with the Tories? No one, it turns out… except the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) who May has apparently been flirting with for months. DUP is a Northern Irish party that takes extreme stances, including opposition to gay marriage, denial of climate change, and opposition to abortion rights. Sounds like DUP leader Arlene Foster and Trump could have a lot in common (you can read more about DUP policies in the Guardian).

Suddenly, a coalition, formal or otherwise, looks like it could be a bad, bad thing.

Mr. Trump, is now really the time to insist on visiting? As much as we would love to see you holding hands with Theresa May and calling London Mayor Sadiq Khan “pathetic,” as you did after the terrorist attack on London Bridge last week.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer denies Trump’s trip has been cancelled or postponed. The Telegraph’s Barney Henderson reports:

“Her Majesty extended an invitation to the president. He’s accepted that invitation and we look forward to scheduling that trip,” he said, adding that no date had yet been set.

“There is nothing that was scheduled and we look forward to working out a mutually acceptable date with the United Kingdom.”

Bring it on. We are not a happily united kingdom right now. We haven’t been one since the Brexit referendum campaign last year, noted for its barefaced lies and xenophobia. Chris West, author of Eurovision!says that the vote created “a new nastiness in the life of the nation.”

Hope of this changing, perhaps, lies in the election result. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has done so well partly because he ran a relatively clean campaign, free of mud-slinging and taunts. The Labour Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, emphasized this, as reported by Peter Walker and Jessica Elgot in the Guardian:

“We tried to have an extremely positive campaign,” he told the BBC. “We modelled it around Jeremy’s character. If you remember when he stood for the leadership, his slogan at the time was honest politics, straight talking, and that’s what we tried to do — a positive campaign throughout.

“And if it is reflected in this sort of levels of support, I think it does change the nature of political discourse to a large extent in our country now. I think people have got fed up with the yah-boo politics and some of the nasty tactics that have gone on recently. I think it will improve politics in this country overall.”

If Trump does visit in October, it’s possible we’ll be preparing for a second election, depending on whether May’s sordid relationship with the DUP pans out. Trump’s presence can only help sink May even further and remind us Brits of exactly what could happen if we don’t exercise our right to vote wisely.

 

 

Nikki Griffiths is the managing director of Melville House UK.

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