There are two and only two explanations for Donald Trump’s latest Tweet. The first is that the next American President is being provocative, deliberately destabilising Anglo-American relations for little more than his own kicks. The other explanation is that he simply doesn’t understand what he is doing and nobody has had the foresight or ability to stop him.
By now, it’s becoming obvious that the second is the most likely explanation. This is the New World Disorder chosen by a minority of American voters. Trump is simply being Trump, playing with his new toy. Today’s Tweet was no more surprising than if he’d announced plans to use the drone programme on Rosie O’Donnell. Trump is mercurial like that and for us to act surprised would be to deny the example of the past eighteen months. This is the Trump we’ve seen on the campaign trail and looming at us from the debates. There is little to suggest that Trump means to act any differently once he’s in the White House and why should he? In his mind, election success amounts to one big affirmation of his character. He’s a winner. Period. Or that’s what he no doubt believes.
It is also equally clear that the news will not change the opinion of diplomats who are already preparing to deal with the new administration. Diplomats will rise above perceived insults in the knowledge that the UK’s relationship with the US is deeper and more long lasting than any single presidency. This won’t be the last time that Donald Trump upsets diplomatic sensibilities and we owe it to our American friends to overlook Trump’s naive approach to statecraft. For all the mild embarrassment felt in our Foreign Office, it’s pretty certain that the embarrassment will be greater on the American side.
What the Foreign Office will notice, however, is how this latest development feeds into the emerging picture we have of the next US President. Trump voicing his opinion about our ambassador keys in with the lack of judgement he showed when he embarked on a crazy telephone spree ringing around world leaders. The scattergun approach was indicative of a man excited by his new office and with a whole lot of new numbers in his rolodex. So desperate of affirmation, he appeared to ring anybody who would congratulate him. He might claim that he was seeking to reassure the world but Trump only gave the world another reason to pause and wonder.
Not since Nixon has the reading of a man’s character been given such significance when it comes to guessing the kind of government he might lead. From what we’ve seen so far, Trump is as shameless as he is malleable. His mind can be changed and he can carry off those changes with a natural swagger. It’s the judgements of those that have his ear that will shape the course of the Trump presidency.
When it comes to those that have his ear, the other side of the story is, in a way, more intriguing and a lot more frightening. What are we to make of Nigel Farage who is emerging as one of the biggest problems in UK politics? Talk that he might be elevated to the Lords begins to make some sense if that means ushering him off the political stage. Yet it is doubtful that Lord Farage of Bromley would go quite so quietly. Since the referendum result, he has appeared skittish and excitable, popping up on news shows everywhere to gloat and project his influence onto the global stage. Writing today for Breitbart, ‘Mr Brexit’ chides the UK government. ‘I have known several of the Trump team for years and I am in a good position with the President-elect’s support to help. The world has changed and its time that Downing Street did too.’ This comes from the man who spent years telling us that our officials needed to be accountable. There should be no more unelected officials in Brussels but, apparently, one more in Washington and his name should be ‘Nigel’.
Farage trying to engineer relations between the two nations should rightly concern all of us. A man of strong opinions now has the ear of an American president of no strong opinions. You surely don’t need to be part of the 49% who voted against Brexit or the 47.83% who voted Democrat to find that prospect chilling. It’s why it is reassuring that the UK government are looking to remain firm. Now is the time to leave matters to the diplomats and those people inside government. Until he is properly elected by the people into a party and place of some greater significance, Nigel Farage has no place dictating what our government should or should not do. Power seems to have gone to his head. He is forgetting the very principles of accountability on which his entire political career was so successfully built.