One would think President Trump has enough electoral problems of his own not to get involved in British political campaigns.
The president’s eagerness to do so thus testifies to his generosity of spirit, seldom encountered among property developers. Yes, his flesh is willing but, alas, his spirit is weak – or at least ill-informed.
If one can discern a general tendency behind Mr Trump’s borderline unintelligible pronouncements, he’d like to see Mr Johnson at Downing Street rather than Comrade Corbyn. Perhaps he feels the former would be more willing to flog portions of Britain to the Trump Organisation. Or else he fears the latter might nationalise the holdings that organisation has already.
One way or the other, Mr Trump is like many of us in that he can only think in the terms he knows. These are set by ‘deals’ and denominated in dollars and cents.
Also like many others, Mr Trump is convinced that most people approach life essentially the same way he does, and if they don’t, they should. Hence he has to believe that those quaint Britons want to get out of the EU mainly because they hunger after the freedom to do lucrative trade deals with other countries, mainly the Good Ole US of A.
That indeed has been one of the themes of the Leave campaign but, mercifully, there have been others as well. I for one have been screaming myself hoarse to the few willing to listen that the EU is a political, not economic, project.
Hence all the multiple questions asked about leaving or staying can be profitably reduced to one: Do we wish to be a sovereign nation governed by Her Majesty’s parliament or an adjunct to a giant superstate run by an unaccountable megalomaniac bureaucracy along the lines of the Third Reich, minus, for the time being, the concentration camps?
Unfortunately, however, such reductive thinking is impossible in a materialist country sold on the Marxist notion of the primacy of economics. That’s why both sides to the argument, and increasingly both major parties, have been skewing the debate largely in the direction of Mr Trump’s comfort zone of dollars and cents, or pounds and pence if you’d rather.
The Leavers, and now more or less the entire Tory party, have been dangling before the salivating masses the carrot of American chlorinated chicken on which we’ll be able to gorge ourselves come Brexit.
The Remainers, now more or less the entire opposition, have been objecting that the chlorinated chicken is a pie in the sky. That nasty Trump only pretends to be Britain’s friend, but in fact he’d much rather do trade deals with China, Russia or even North Korea.
The issue has acquired an importance it doesn’t really merit, but the fact remains: it has acquired it. The prospect of a trade agreement with the US is an important vote getter for the Tories; denying it, for Labour.
Enter Mr Trump, interviewed on LBC by Nigel Farage. The president readily agreed with Mr Farage that the arrangement Mr Johnson had reached with the EU was far from perfect.
Moreover, speaking with his customary lucid fluency, Mr Trump added: “To be honest with you… this deal… under certain aspects of the deal… you can’t do it, you can’t do it, you can’t trade.
“We can’t make a trade deal with the UK because I think we can do many times the numbers that we’re doing right now and certainly much bigger numbers than you are doing under the European Union.”
If I were Comrade Corbyn, I’d send Mr Trump a gift, perhaps a Jermyn Street tie pre-knotted to the right length. For, in just a few ill-chosen and barely coherent words, Mr Trump undermined one of the key pledges of the Tory campaign.
Granted, after that he uttered a general statement of opprobrium about Corbyn: “Corbyn would be so bad for your country. He’d be so bad, he’d take you in such a bad way. He’d take you into such bad places.”
But that’s just waffle with no substance to it whatsoever. One can’t attack Corbyn with vague phrases about him taking us in a bad way, whatever that means.
Pragmatic Britons like specifics, and the only specific they got from Trump is that Johnson is lying about the trade deal, while Corbyn is telling the truth.
With friends like Trump, who needs enemas. (If I used this pun before, I apologise. I can’t help myself: it’s a form of Tourette’s.)
The president clearly lacks sensitivity to the numerous subtexts of the upcoming election. Above all, he lacks the good manners not to meddle in the internal affairs of a foreign country about which he knows little and understands even less.
And if Nigel Farage is manipulating Mr Trump to advance his own political aspirations, he ought to be ashamed of himself. Even in modern politics some holds must be barred.
P.S. Nigel Farage has just threatened Mr Johnson that he’ll field a candidate in every seat unless a pact between his Brexit Party and the Tories is formed. Allow me to translate the blackmail terms: the Farage way or the Corbyn highway. Anyone prepared to deliver the country to the Troskyists, for whatever reason, is a dangerous monomaniac. I do hope Mr Farage isn’t prepared to act on his threat.