Mr Corbyn was wrong: He needed to embrace Donald Trump’s UK visit
- Credit: PA
Iain Dale says if you want to be prime minister, you simply don't snub the US president
Sometimes my fellow countryfolk bemuse me. Imagine this. You're leader of her majesty's loyal opposition, and one day you expect to be prime minister. You've spent years of your life decrying America and its supposed imperial ambitions, so when the US president arrives for a state visit, you immediately grandstand and announce that you won't attend the state banquet. You twist the knife a little more and speak at a demonstration in Trafalgar Square to enthuse your base and demonstrate your left-wing credentials to those who might be beginning to doubt them. And the, shock horror, the US president reveals that he has refused to meet you. Go figure.
Given Jeremy Corbyn presumably still expects (and wants) to be prime minister, he seemingly hasn't given a lot of thought to what happens if indeed he does win an election. Twenty per cent of our trade is with the US. American companies employ one million Brits in this country. British companies employ one million Americans. We invest more money in America than any other country. It's the same in reverse. We are interlinked economically like we are with no other country, with the possible exception of the Republic of Ireland. And this is all in addition to our historical, linguistic and cultural ties. What Jeremy Corbyn's virtue signalling has achieved is that if he ever does get the keys to Number Ten, he will have destroyed any semblance of the so-called 'special relationship'. The only thing special about it would be its frostiness.
We were told that there would be a demonstration of 250-300,000 people in London on Tuesday. It turned out to be less than a tenth of that number, and most of them were placard wielding Trotskyites from the Socialist Workers Party. I know. I walked through them.
The whole anti-Trump phenomenon is yet another example of the disconnect between bien pensant metropolitan London and the rest of us who tend to inhabit the real world.
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We may not like Donald Trump much, but we don't try to pretend that his the second coming of Hitler. I might decry his misogyny and coarseness and I might loathe the way he tweets, but you cannot deny the US economy is going gangbusters and that some of his foreign posturings have actually delivered results. He may be unconventional, but he knows the art of the deal, and sometimes that has to trump (sorry…) his many downsides and deficiencies.
In the end, it's all about realpolitik. A UK/US free trade deal is in both countries' interests. Yes, the US is the economic superpower in the relationship, but we remain the world's fifth largest economy and in terms of negotiating a trade deal, we hold a lot of important cards. The whole idea that a trade deal necessitates handing over the NHS to voracious US companies is for the birds, as is the notion that we're all going to be forced to eat chlorinated chicken. That's the level of debate we now have on this important issue. Free trade agreements are just that. Agreements. Both sides have to agree them. There is give and take on both sides. Compromise can lead to the art of the deal, and will do here.
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All relationships go through highs and lows, and our relationship with our main ally is no different. Older readers will remember of the frostiness of the relationship between Ted Heath and Richard Nixon. Margaret Thatcher had a one-way shouting match with Ronald Reagan when he invaded Grenada without warning her. John Major and Bill Clinton had a tricky start to their relationship.
Our relationship with the United States is the most important bilateral relationship this country has. Nothing should be done to endanger it, but this is a lesson the leader of the opposition doesn't want to learn. He'll suck up to the IRA, to Hamas and Hezbollah. He'll give Putin a free pass. He'll attend a state banquet for the Chinese president. But break bread with the leader of the free world. No way. It has not been a good week for Mr Corbyn.
Email Iain at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @iaindale