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Don't Trumpet axed visit warns Chris Moncrieff

By Chris Moncrieff | In-depth | Published:

n Those who greeted with glee the announcement by President Trump that he is cancelling his forthcoming visit to Britain have done the UK a disservice, however virtuous they probably consider themselves to be.

Donald Trump

The Labour Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was among the first to metaphorically throw his hat in the air when he heard this news. Within a few hours, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had denounced Khan as ‘a puffed-up pompous popinjay’.

Johnson might equally have applied these epithets to the Commons Speaker, John Bercow, who announced in the House some months ago that Trump, if he made a state visit here, would not be allowed to address both Houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall. Quite an insult.

Not only should the speaker, however obliquely, not express personal opinions, but he had failed to consult the House of Lords.

What these two, and many others, should realise is that Trump, however vain, self-obsessed, bullying and ludicrous he may be, was voted into the White House by the people of Britain’s greatest ally.

The simple rule is that you have to talk to these people, whether you like them or not. Trump’s excuse for cancelling is that he does not want to open the new US embassy, because he believes his predecessor Obama sold the one just vacated for peanuts. However, It is likely he was deterred by the icy coldness of those people who denounced his visit. Yet, Britain has cheerfully – and quite properly – invited far worse people over here.

They include in 1973 President Mobutu of Zaire, a homicidal dictator who embezzled up to £12 billion; in 1978, Romania’s Communist brutal head of state Nicolae Ceausescu, who was later executed by a firing squad; and, in 1994, the abominable president Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. Two years ago, it was President Xi Jinping of China – the ruler of a one-party state where dissidents are jailed, torture is normal, and citizens are spied on.

There was no particular opposition to these visits by these monsters – compared with whom Trump is positively mild. At least Downing Street has come out, hoping that Trump, despite the malcontents, will visit Britain. It is his right and our duty that he should come here - and be welcomed.

n The condition of Ukip is not exactly anything to be admired.

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The party has had four leaders within the space of a year, which is not exactly a mark of stability. The latest incumbent, Henry Bolton, said to be out of his depth, is being urged to quit after his much younger new girlfriend made racial slurs (for which she has since apologised) against Prince Harry’s fiancee, Meghan Markle.

And what is more, the former leader Nigel Farage has flip-flopped over whether or not he wants a second referendum on Brexit. I never thought I would say this, but Ukip seem to be in an even more shambolic state than are the Conservative Party at the moment - and that’s saying something.

I used to think David Cameron was seriously over the top when he once described Ukip as a bunch of fruitcakes, among other epithets. I am now beginning to think that he was then not only right, but may well have seriously understated the case.

n Winston Churchill is the subject of a new film, acclaimed by one and all, including his grandson – Tory MP Sir Nicholas Soames.

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He recalls that during one fiery moment, Churchill’s fearless wife, Clementine, hurled a bowl of spinach at the great man. There is still the mark on the wall at Chartwell to remind people of that event.

Flinging crockery about is not unknown in the political world. Jane Clark, the hard-done-by wife of the late philandering Tory MP, Alan Clark, used to get so exasperated by him behaviour that she hurled cups and saucers about - “but always into the sink - much easier to clear up afterwards”, she said.

I was once sitting in the Press Gallery cafeteria when I was struck on the back of the head by a cup which had come hurtling through the air, followed shortly by the flying saucer. It appears that a volatile political reporter was so angry at the way one newspaper had treated his story that he decided to smash up the tea service.

:: How bonkers is this? People are paying £12,000 to hear David Cameron make a speech in China. I suppose Cameron can make a fairly good run-of-the-mill speech when he tries, but I would say a reasonable price is about a fiver.

These people, splashing their money about, would have done far better to have bought a ticket to London a few years ago and listened to him ad nauseam for days on end for no further outlay.

And how do they quantify whether they got their moneys’ worth after such a ludicrous pay-out? Perhaps a few nibbles were thrown in as well.

Chris Moncrieff

By Chris Moncrieff

Journalist and former political editor of the Press Association

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