I struggle with which I find more chilling. Donald Trump’s attempts to rebrand as a politician, or the world’s perceived willingness to accept it. Trump and Brexit are not the same thing. Nigel Farage’s lingering presence and Trump’s more ‘moderate’ statements may allow the US to believe so, but the ‘special relationship’ must be placed under review.
This isn’t an issue of left and right, or socialism versus capitalism. We are witnessing the acceptance of an authoritarian, imperialist, leader of a nuclear and global super power. When Britain voted to leave the EU, we did not vote for Trump’s version of fascism. More importantly, the behaviour of the President-elect is something we know well from Britain’s political establishment.
Scandals and lies transcend the political spectrum, and should cause moral outrage. Yet Trump’s team go further in both rhetoric and action. Farage is divisive, but Trump doesn’t represent anything Britain needs or stands for.
Trump, Farage and Brexit
Many feel that Hillary Clinton would’ve been worse for the world than Trump. I cannot claim to be a fan of hers, but there are scant US administrations I endorse. Yet the issue with Trump is far greater. We aren’t discussing leaked emails or political collusion, but rather a dangerous ideology – one that Britain has never accepted.
Britain’s decision to leave the EU was to reclaim sovereignty; what people expect as a result of that varies, but we never voted for Farage. His ability to appear ‘reasonable’, while pandering to people’s worst fears, swayed voters. But UKIP’s vote share and his inability to win a seat speak volumes.
His role as a divisive demagogue may have resulted in a perception of victory, but Brexit doesn’t belong to him. He may wish to distance himself from promises but Boris Johnson made many. Other elected politicians such as Michael Gove had a role to play – and one can’t forget that Labour MPs such as Dennis Skinner and Kate Hoey are vocal about their Euro-scepticism.
The two results do share a common thread. They are the rejection of being managed by a political class. It’s the voices of ordinary people tired of a system that doesn’t work for them – but the parallels end there.
I am waiting for Trump’s grand reveal as “Mr. Brexit”, but I’m yet to see his newly found knowledge – or any request for him to lead it.
When did we become a US colony?
Sarah Palin believes that both Trump and Brexit are the US and Britain going “rogue” and “linking up”. A better understanding of Britain and our complex relationship with the EU might be helpful for the former Alaskan governor. In her posturing she unwittingly highlights a massive cultural divide.
Britain has not gone rogue, we have opted to leave the EU – in principle. We’ve had a High Court ruling, a Supreme Court date scheduled to appeal that decision and that is before we’ve even activated Article 50. Regardless of exact figures, the amount of administration required betrays our true nature. We aren’t a rogue state, we are a nation obsessed with processes and the rule of law.
A chilling rise in hate crime followed the referendum, but that hasn’t diminished our obsession with queueing. Brexit means Brexit, but it doesn’t mean rewriting our national identity. It was not a vote to end pub-culture and move towards a mall based society.
If anything, Brexit is an assertion of quite how damned British we can be. How bloody minded and stubborn we are in the face of things we find objectionable, regardless of consequences. Brexit is about Britain and our future international relations. If we are considering how European we are, we should consider how comfortable we are with the US.
The ‘special relationship’
Our relationship with the US has never been an equal one. In many ways the parallels between it and our EU membership make the latter seem more reasonable. We were lead into Iraq by George W. Bush and Tony Blair, but that required no formal union. The mention of a ‘special relationship’ and our subservience to the US was enough. In the largest protest Britain has seen, people spoke with their feet. We told the government “Not in our name!”, yet our calls fell on deaf ears.
We may see some benefits, but we are the submissive party. And just like the power dynamic in any unhealthy relationship, we find ourselves in the ‘wrong’, or reluctantly agreeing; pretending that we are in mutual agreement.
When attempting to reclaim independence, attaching ourselves to a Trump-led US is absurd. Another quintessentially British trait is that we don’t leap with false enthusiasm. We aren’t that easily excited.
What relationship do we want with Trump?
The US decided that Trump will be their next President. It isn’t a decision we have any say in, but whether we affiliate ourselves with him is. It isn’t merely Farage that has welcomed Trump, leaders across the world including members of our parliament are ready to embrace him. From our Prime Minister to opposition backbenchers, such as Chuka Umunna, the priority appears to be ‘business as usual’.
Few politicians or pundits can view the climate of 2016 as a will to carry on ‘as we were’. Trump and Brexit are an explicit rejection of the status quo, and that must be understood. More importantly though we must recognise that the attitudes seen in the US are alien to us.
It isn’t that Britain is the epitome of tolerance. Anger and hatred exist, but our horror at events on smaller scales and attempts to prevent future tragedies speak to an empathy that we share.
Our first reaction to a shooting isn’t to defend our ‘right’ and capacity to shoot others, it’s how we prevent it. How we ensure there aren’t more Jo Cox’s. The respect shown by other parties in not contesting her seat. That isn’t something one can imagine of Trump.
There is a fringe with the same malice in their hearts as Thomas Mair, but no public figure has incited further violence. Trump on the other hand is happy to allude to it. Now more than ever there is the need for Britain to unite behind our own values, not accept those of a different powerful ‘ally’.
Trump is happy to write a blank cheque for his supporter’s aggression. Not to calm the situation, but to silence critics. Farage fights for political relevance in ugly ways, but even he has not gone to such extremes.
For sovereignty, Trump must be rejected
Why, when seeking British sovereignty, are we accepting narratives from those we didn’t elect? Trump doesn’t express positions that exist in mainstream British political discourse. Before the results of the election were known, our politicians pulled few punches with Trump. Yet now he readies himself for the White House, we appear to be backtracking.
If sovereignty is aspirational, why have we done a U-turn with regard to Trump? Sovereignty is desirable precisely because it means we aren’t forced to. Withdrawing from the EU removes formal ties between Britain and the rest of Europe, but if in doing so we still bow to the will of foreign powers – what is it for?
The US could be a great source for trade and perhaps is what business and the economy feel they need, but Brexit sent a clear message. Markets and multinationals no longer define our politics. If the need to appease economic forces is so pressing, we should really reconsider leaving the EU. Yet that isn’t what I’m advocating, I’m questioning why we did, and trying to hold true to those principles.
Dark forces in the establishment
While Trump may represent a rejection of the political elite to Americans, he embodies many traits that Britain rightfully finds reprehensible. Not just the Trump tapes, but the allegations of serious sexual assaults, some against minors. Sexual scandals are something we’ve seen before all too frequently, as well as the cover ups the ensue.
The continual collapsing of the Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) inquiry, the Rotherham sexual abuse scandal, or more recently the behaviour of Keith Vaz reveal an insidious aspect of the elite. Yet more importantly than that, they represent incidents that none of us would want to defend. The most recent failure of the CSA inquiry has been met with anger, regardless of political party. Whatever forces are subverting justice, they are alive and well in our establishment.
That mechanisms that are available to hinder these issues exposes a rotten core. From Vaz finding himself a new position on the Justice Committee, to the suppression of reports on the extent of events in Rotherham. We can’t blame immigrants. The young people abused didn’t behave inappropriately, the individuals committing the acts are to be condemned. There are no caveats.
The same is true of shadowy forces operating to ensure these investigations either stall or fail. I don’t need you to become a feminist if you weren’t already, just to remember the justified outrage you feel at these events. People in positions of power who used it to their advantage, in cases to sickening ends.
Brexit means Brexit, and that means independence
If you manage to dismiss Trump’s words as ‘locker room’ talk, I won’t waste either of our time trying to convince you otherwise. Perhaps Trump is innocent of all accusations, but one thing is undeniable – he has no problem with expressing those views or attitudes privately. The question isn’t whether you think Trump is a danger to you personally, but rather whether his attitudes are welcome in Britain?
Today, Vaz is still an MP. The CSA inquiry’s collapse looms over parliament like a dark cloud while a man accused of things similarly sinister awaits his swearing in as President of the United States. Yet that is the key; he is not our president. Many Americans and the popular vote would indicate a similar mood across the Atlantic.
Trump doesn’t represent any noble political ideals, nor positive character traits. The result of a broken and corrupt system. One which he is settling into with consummate ease for a man who is ‘different’. An establishment that welcomes him with open arms, despite his promises to “drain the swamp”.
Britain’s reaction to Trump
Trump shouldn’t simply offend the left, he should disgust the British right. The protests proposed in Wootton Bassett created uproar. But how does that reconcile with Trump’s comments about military personnel? His conduct towards the family of those who give their lives? Reckless comments about commitments to NATO endanger and weaken all members, ourselves included.
At the most sympathetic reading, Trump’s US will be isolationist and self-serving. He has a special relationship, but that isn’t with Britain. It’s with the apparent “Leader of the Opposition”, Farage. Britain has long fought against fascism and it’s time for us to do it once again.
Our politicians, but more importantly our society can unite against Trump. On principles which unite our country, if not always with the same motivations. 52% of British voters want greater independence. The unquestioning relevance being afforded to Trump and Farage in Britain is worrying.
Whether you believe the political class to be corrupt, or the men in question, one thing is beyond doubt: both are now part of it. They are shaping political discourse – despite neither ever having a mandate to do so. Especially not in Britain.
At a time when our Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary are globetrotting, offending both nations and business as they see fit – why are we even speaking to Trump? And more importantly, when will I receive a vote on our relationship with the US?
Then again, do I need one? Britain has never tolerated fascism.