If Trump’s royal invitation to the UK was meant to stir political tensions, it seems the US president has done a good job.
On Monday June 3, United States President Donald Trump arrived at Stansted Airport in London, beginning his three-day state visit to the United Kingdom.
He began his trip with a welcome by the Queen in Buckingham Palace garden, followed by a tour of Westminster Abbey in the day, and a royal banquet in the evening. The intention of the visit has been said to further strengthen US and UK ties, and to discuss matters such as trade, security and investment. A meeting was also had with many prominent CEOs of big business such as Jes Staley of Barclays, Emma Walmsley of GlaxoSmithKline and John Pettigrew of the National Grid.
Trump’s visit has been met with mass protests, particularly in London, by individuals of all backgrounds expressing their dislike of and opposition to the president's visit. Protestors gathered in the thousands in Trafalgar Square, protesting Trump’s views on women, climate change, minorities, and immigration among many other ideological stances. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was also in attendance, stating that we can come together to create a better world.
The visit comes at a crucial crossroads of UK politics, following the Prime Minister Theresa May's resignation announcement, and the recent European election results with almost an even divide between the percentage of people who voted for leave or remain parties. During his press conference with the prime minister, Trump praised May and only had negative things to say about Corbyn, and positives regarding Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, and Jeremy Hunt, all candidates for the Conservative Party leadership.
As an American living in London, I've watched the Trump presidency unfold from afar, and I must admit I am grateful for the distance. I've watched as the country's political system has brought shame upon itself, and often find myself wondering how exactly we got here. But the answer is in the same fuelling of hateful and divisive rhetoric that Trump has brought with him to the United Kingdom on this state visit. I believe that while he may not be this mastermind behind all of his words and actions, he is a figurehead in the sense that he is doing what needs to be done in order to achieve particular results - attain power, divide the masses, alienate the poor and minority populations, all with zero regard for the American people's wellbeing or beyond. However this is the outcome we've come to in this neoliberal world system, in which leaders no longer represent the national interest or the good of the people but rather the good of a select few and those in ruling parties.
What's concerning about this particular visit is again the rhetoric he brings with him to only further boost the far right in not only UK but also Europe that has already been on the rise, and come to a vital point in the Brexit divide within the UK, in which the outcome is still unknown.
Renowned author Arundhati Roy said Trump's visiting the UK is "like a monarch visiting one of his colonies" - referencing when royalty used to visit India during Britain's imperial rule. She goes on to discuss concerns regarding his interest in being in the UK and what exactly he's trying to achieve. Now this consideration is rather important especially since the majority of individuals tend to take his political position as a joke due to the way in which he conducts himself and the bizarre and baseless things he says and does. However we do need to remember that this man is the president of the most powerful country in the world, and his actions create a long-lasting impact on the lives of not only ordinary Americans but also on people across the world.
Therefore when he's making claims and propositions as to who would be fit to hold power in the UK and what should be done regarding the NHS, these things should not be disregarded as just Trump being Trump, as his words carry weight whether they're within 400 characters of a tweet, or being said to the leaders of a country.
Trump is looking out for the interests of himself and a select few, therefore every action he undertakes should be viewed with the intention of furthering those interests. While we may laugh at his audacity, hundreds of thousands of people elected him as president of the United States. Contested topics such as the NHS and Brexit have serious consequences, not only for Britain but other states as well. He stated that the NHS was ‘on the table’, in a post Brexit trade deal with the United States, and further reiterated that May should have ‘sued’ the European Union instead of opting to make any kind of deal. It is quite audacious of him to offer his ‘opinion’ on something that impacts countless individuals and needs to be dealt with carefully, such as demoting the NHS from maintaining it’s standing as a social service to just being ‘on the table’.
Therefore their discussion by people in the highest position of power such as Trump, in such a public manner need to be taken seriously and their impact weighed. With the resignation from power of May and the race for prime minister underway, any commentary made for or against any individual can aid in shaping the outcome of the upcoming election, such as furthering the far-right opinion in the UK or garnering more support for candidates such as Nigel Farage. Trump said of the Brexit Party leader that he “has a lot to offer”, and that he is “a very smart person. They won’t bring him in. Think how well they would do if they did”. And while Trump may not have many supporters in such a diverse city like London, there is more to the UK and other areas in which support for his ideals and politicians like Farage are stronger.
An additional factor to consider is why Trump was invited to the UK on the visit at all. It's no secret that Londoners do not regard the US president highly, as has been evident due to sizeable protests during previous visits. But as state visits are done primarily in order to further the home country's national interest (i.e. the United Kingdom), he would have only been invited due to some foreseeable benefit by the Queen. Perhaps as we all know how Trump conducts himself, there was some anticipation of him spewing his radical views at such a crucial time in British politics, that could further fuel a particular political shift? While the true intentions of his invitation may not be completely evident, we would be unwise to disregard his bold assertions as simply bad social etiquette.
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