Team Trump descends on London to a mixed reception

American billionaires have often fallen in love with England. From John-Paul Getty to Michael Bloomberg, they have found a second home in London or the English countryside. Donald Trump was never one of them. He hates to travel, and will go to great lengths to end each day in one of his own beds. For a man often dubbed a socialite when he frequented New York’s party scene in the Eighties, he has always been oddly anti-social.

While several British developers, such as the Candy brothers, seem to have learned from the Trump school of high glitz and aggressive marketing, Trump himself has never owned a property in London, sticking to the more sedate world of Scottish golf courses. He has never seemed interested in having the English like him.

His visit this week to London, then, should be a test. The fact that it has taken so long is testament to both his own controversial presidency and the British government’s indecision about what kind of relationship to strike with this most unusual American leader. 

The Prime Minister, Theresa May, scampered off to Washington soon after Trump entered office but she hasn’t been able to forge a close relationship with Trump. She has been comprehensively lapped by France’s President Emmanuel Macron, whom Trump seems genuinely to like and respect. May, in his mind, lacks the two qualities he most admires in a politician: brute strength and low cunning.

Among politicians it’s the Brexiteers who have come closest to embracing Trump. They see a kinship in his robust demagoguery. As a presidential candidate, Trump said he thought Brexit would be great for Britain, and Ukip’s Nigel Farage was one of the first non-Americans to visit him in Trump Tower after he was elected President in 2016.

Boris Johnson used to be critical of Trump but he has come around to him. Last month, the Foreign Secretary told a meeting at the Institute of Directors in London that he was “increasingly admiring of Donald Trump. I have become more and more convinced that there is method in his madness.” He added: “Imagine Trump doing Brexit. He’d go in bloody hard… There’d be all sorts of breakdowns, all sorts of chaos. Everyone would think he’d gone mad. But actually, you might get somewhere. It’s a very, very good thought.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg wrote in early May that post-Brexit the US will be even more important to the UK. “It is our national good fortune that the President with whom we will develop this new arrangement is Mr Trump,” he wrote, comparing Trump’s election to the Brexit vote. “He appealed to voters left behind by the metropolitan elite and he exudes confidence about his own nation and a determination not to be a manager of decline, which also inspires the Brexiteers.”

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