The President came, saw, sparked massive protests across the UK – and played a lot of golf, writes Ian Swanson.
PEACEFUL protests throughout Donald Trump’s four-day visit to the UK sent a clear message that his policies and attitudes – on women, migrants, racism, climate change and a host of other issues – are abhorrent and unacceptable.
And that message did get through. President Trump admitted, after hearing about the “Trump Baby” blimp, that he felt “unwelcome” in London. If he took time to look at TV or social media in between his rounds of golf at Turnberry and saw the protesting crowds, he will know that went for Edinburgh and the rest of the country too.
Just the fact his itinerary had to be planned to avoid anywhere that crowds could easily gather speaks volumes about how low this US president is held in public opinion.
Of course world leaders have little option but to deal with Mr Trump. But it was a mistake for Theresa May to issue the invitation for a state visit when she became the first overseas leader to visit him after his inauguration 18 months ago.
This trip was designated as a working visit rather than an official state one. And it remains to be seen whether dinner at Blenheim Palace, tea with the Queen at Windsor and the meeting with Mrs May at Chequers were enough to satisfy his appetite for historic grandeur or whether it just left him with a taste for more British pomp and circumstance and we will still have to endure the lavish embarrassment of that promised state visit.
The reason for Mrs May’s rush to offer such a visit was the desperate hope that a favourable post-Brexit trade deal with the US would prove how the UK can succeed outside the EU.
Despite his “America first” mantra, the president initially indicated he was ready to help and would be keen to reach a good deal with the UK. Brexiteers made much of the transatlantic trade prospects.
But in his extraordinary Sun interview, timed to coincide with his UK visit, Mr Trump trashed Mrs May’s Brexit blueprint – hammered out at Chequers a week earlier – saying it would kill any trade deal with the US. And although he appeared to row back from that assertion at an excruciatingly awkward press conference with Mrs May in the Chequers garden, the episode underlines the folly of relying for the country’s future prosperity on the whim of a president who changes his mind by the minute.
Mrs May was already having trouble – she claimed her Chequers agreement on the Brexit way forward had united the cabinet, only for Brexit Secretary David Davies to resign two days later, followed by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.
Mr Trump’s interview comments that he had given Mrs May advice on how to handle the EU which she ignored – we now know that was “sue them” – and that Boris Johnson would make a great prime minister did nothing to help the beleaguered PM.
Meanwhile, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon admitted to being “a wee bit tickled” by reports that President Trump “hates her” and spends time “bitching” about her to Mrs May.
Ms Sturgeon said: “If it is true, I suppose I should take it as a compliment, I certainly don’t spend that much time talking about him.”
Mr Trump likes to talk of his Scottish roots but his dislike of the First Minister and all those protesters may put him off another visit – unless he just wants to play more golf.