If someone had been publicly bad-mouthing you at every opportunity for more than a year, would you accept an invitation to his or her party? No. I don’t think so.
So why on earth would anyone expect Donald Trump to have any taste for visiting Britain again (apart from one of his golf courses or hotels) let alone accept a State visit invitation, should one ever be properly extended, after the non-stop character assassination and abuse hurled at him by America’s oldest ally?
And why on earth would the BBC engage in the charade of expressing (fake?) surprise that Mr Trump has decided not to come to London to open the new American Embassy, as it did on the Today programme yesterday morning?
The Government and the BBC should count themselves lucky that Trump let them off the hook and sent out a face-saving (for the Government) tweet to explain his decision. Instead of chastising the Brits on their manners (he could have – the political class has been boorish, embarrassing and startlingly undiplomatic) he simply said he didn’t think much of the monstrosity that is the new embassy located on the south side of the Thames (or the money wasted on it). What, he asked, had been wrong with the fine edifice on Grosvenor Square?
Nothing except for all that ‘terrorism’s not going to change our lives’ and ‘we are carrying on as before, when we are not holding candle-lit vigils’. Unfortunately that sentiment didn’t extend to the barricaded fortress Grosvenor Square has become.
Now the Thames more than symbolises the new division between Britain and its only ally, and it’s a division of our making. It symbolises a new British rejection of the country which has saved us and Europe twice, which has the capacity to deal with the terrorist threat that led to the Grosvenor Square barricades in the first place, and which finally on Trump’s watch is being dealt with, by the country on which we depend for our security almost totally.
None of this has stopped the Government, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, the BBC, you name it, from treating the American President as though he is no better than a common felon, or Abu Hamza for that matter, such is the abuse heaped on him. Hate speech does not begin to say it.
It’s not just been non-stop, it’s been official too. Given the insults sent his way since he became President, I commend this un-reticent man for his reticence. He must be spitting tacks privately.
You might have thought his cancellation of his visit would have given pause for thought, prompted a moment of reflection, an opportunity for self-examination. But no. Not on the Today programme anyway.
If I had been the Today editor Sarah Sands, I would have insisted on my staff addressing it from his point of view, and asking whether British behaviour has been either measured or appropriate.
Was this measured or appropriate? Parliament held a debate following a petition to cancel Donald Trump’s state visit, due to have been hosted by the Queen last year. It was led by the egregious drugs-decriminalising Labour MP Paul Flynn, who took the opportunity (without reprimand) to describe Trump’s intellectual ability as ‘protozoan’, inviting the subsequent petulant bad behaviour of the debaters. This was the petition that called for the State Visit invitation to be downgraded because of Mr Trump’s ‘well-documented misogyny and vulgarity’, something which for some reason that had never bothered them in advance of Mr Clinton’s visits to this country. Should it have been countenanced?
And what of the undiplomatic official behaviour around the de facto retraction of the British invitation to Mr Trump for a State visit? How offensive was that? Did that not demand an apology?
How appropriate was Mrs May’s priggish and ill-judged public reprimand to Mr Trump over his retweet of the British First tweet? No, it did not prove that Mr Trump is racist, but that he was – as everyone knew – on occasion naïve and hasty.
Or had the priggish, censorious and inaccurate BBC gone too far in encouraging anti-Trump venom? Had their reporters flaunted their bias and vented their very non-impartial fury one too many times?
Well, there was no chance of any such reflection. For who else was participating in this fake exercise but the incontinent North America correspondent himself, Jon Sopel. Yes, the man at the heart of the bias and venom, the reporter who’d displayed his prejudiceagainst ‘the populist’ Trump at every opportunity, even at the White House and to Mr Trump’s face, in swaggering displays of hubris. This was the man to whom the Today programme turned its disingenuous questions.
Why might Mr Trump have taken offence, John Humphrys asked him.
Instead of a mea culpa, Radio 4 Today dug itself further into its hole, offering the holier-than-thou Chuka Umunna (a would-be PM, for heaven’s sake) a new opportunity to smear the President of the USA – as a racist of course – to say how glad he was that the devil in President’s clothes was not landing on our shores any time soon.
All this was in the presence of the contrastingly well-mannered and measured American commentator Charlie Wolf, who gently rebuked them. No, he ventured, it would not have been the fear of Corbyn-provoked demonstrations that would put Trump off, rather Britain’s official and establishment behaviour, from Parliament to the PM to the Major. And no, France – where Mr Trump had already been welcomed by Monsieur Macron on a State visit – had not behaved like this. Listening, I felt ashamed for my country.
Wolf’s quiet remonstrance fell on stony ground. He must have left Broadcasting House shaking his head at the collapse of British manners, and at the disproportionate conceit of an ever smaller-minded and ever more defenceless nation, and asking if the Queen, looking to her crown, would not once more call in her Prime Minister for the severest of reprimands.