Golf, Queen, demos, Chequers: Trump’s in town

“Turmoil”: As he left Washington, Trump said there were “a lot of things going on” in the UK. © Getty

Should Donald Trump have been invited to Britain? Air Force One will land at Stansted Airport this evening — and tomorrow, 50,000 people will take to the streets to protest Trump’s arrival.

Tomorrow, a balloon depicting the US president wearing a nappy will fly over Parliament Square in London. An estimated 50,000 protesters will march through the city’s streets. Meanwhile, Green Day’s American Idiot is climbing the UK singles chart.

Yes, after a year of delays and cancellations, President Donald Trump is finally visiting the UK.

He has a busy four days ahead. Tonight there will be a military ceremony at Blenheim Palace in Oxford, followed by a black-tie dinner with government ministers and business leaders. He will then spend the night at the American ambassador’s residence near Regent’s Park in London.

Tomorrow, Trump will attend another military demonstration; discuss foreign policy with Prime Minister Theresa May at Chequers; then meet the Queen at Windsor Castle.

He will then spend the weekend in Scotland, where his mother was born — and where he is likely to play golf at his luxury resort in Turnberry.

He will avoid most of the protests in central London. But demonstrators have vowed to show up “wherever he visits” as part of a “carnival of resistance”. Police chiefs told The Guardian that they were deploying the highest numbers of officers since the 2011 riots. One compared the numbers to “if London was burning down”.

May needs this trip to go well, especially after a week of Brexit drama and political chaos. And yet relations between the pair are strained.

When May first visited the White House, a week after Trump’s inauguration, they held hands.

In the year and a half since, Trump has repeatedly made life difficult for her: retweeting Britain First; criticising London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s response to a deadly terror attack; and, on Tuesday, praising former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson just hours after his resignation plunged May’s Brexit plan into crisis.

Should he ever have been asked to come?

Best frenemies

Never, say some. He has crossed too many ethical lines, from separating babies from their parents at the US- Mexico border, to implying that anti-racism campaigners were on a par with white supremacists in Charlottesville last year. Good friends tell you when you are wrong. So it is Britain’s duty to be frank: Trump has gone too far. He should only be asked back if he agrees to change his ways.

Of course he should be here, say others. Britain has hosted far worse world leaders, from Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Whatever you think of Trump, it would be absurd for Britain to give the cold shoulder to the leader of its most powerful ally. This way, May can keep trying to influence him the way he responds to best: through personal relationships and one-to-one chats.

You Decide

  1. Whose advice are you most likely to listen to: an expert, an enemy or a friend?
  2. Sheffield’s mayor has “banned” Trump from his city. (Although he does not technically have that power.) Should Trump be banned from Britain?

Activities

  1. Imagine you are the UK’s prime minister and you have two hours to talk to President Trump tomorrow afternoon. Choose the top three issues you would address. For each, write a sentence or two explaining why you think it is important and what America can do about it.
  2. Research another time that a US president visited Britain. Write a short paragraph comparing the public and media reactions to Trump’s trip.

Some People Say...

“States do not have friends: they have only interests.”

Charles de Gaulle

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Trump is coming to the UK on a “working visit”, avoiding the pageantry of a formal state visit. He will be the 12th US president to visit the UK. The first was Woodrow Wilson almost 100 years ago. In the 1960s, half a million people came out to see John F. Kennedy in London. In 2003, George W. Bush spent the night at Buckingham Palace. Barack Obama visited five times, including a state visit in 2011.
What do we not know?
What the Queen will think of Trump and his wife, Melania. She famously keeps personal opinions out of the public eye — although in a recent TV show she jokingly compared him and Obama to helicopters. When they met in the 1990s, Bill Clinton marveled at “what a keen judge she is of human events”. In 2016, Obama called her “truly one of my favourite people.”

Word Watch

50,000 protesters
According to a Facebook group for the march.
Delays and cancellations
A state visit was originally planned for July 2017. A visit planned for February this year was cancelled over the cost of a new US embassy in London.
Chequers
The prime minister’s country residence in Buckinghamshire.
2011 riots
A week of riots in August after the police shooting of a local man, Mark Duggan, in Tottenham.
Britain First
A far-right political group. In November, Trump retweeted posts from its deputy leader, Jayda Fransen — who has since been imprisoned for religiously aggravated harassment.
Terror attack
Seven people were killed and 48 injured after an attack on London Bridge in June last year. Trump berated Khan for advising Londoners to stay calm.
Separating
Trump’s zero-tolerance policy on illegal immigration to the US meant that over 2,300 children were separated from their parents. Trump has since ended this practice, but not the policy which caused it.
Charlottesville
A city in Virginia where a far-right rally was held last August. One anti-racism campaigner was killed.