A few murmurs of sympathy, please, for my old mother country, England. I left her fond embrace back in 1948 when she was a badly beaten-up survivor of WW2 and young families like mine were looking for brighter horizons.
I – we, the family – chose Canada and have never regretted the choice although we still watch the fortunes of the homeland, taking pride in her all too rare triumphs and lamenting the old lady’s sorrows when she takes a beating in sports or, worse, in politics.
Recently, it has been in the realm of politics that I’ve been close to looking for my old black armband to wear in mourning for the mess Britannia’s got herself into. Adding to a general feeling of deep pessimism watching England’s chaotic Brexit departure from the European Union is the depressing sight of the man Prime Minister Theresa May appears to be turning to for the toss of a lifebelt.
Call me a pessimist, but I see nothing but evil looming on the horizon with President Donald Trump poised to perhaps take up an invitation from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to drop by Buckingham Palace for a royal welcome and a state dinner between June 3 and 5.
Defenders of all things royal will claim that such invitations from the Queen are usually in response to a request from her government to please pull out all the stops and blow all the whistles to welcome the head of a foreign country whose help England may need in the near future.
That would help with the immediate loss of European markets when England’s ugly Brexit divorce is finalized, and she turns to the USA to pick up the market slack. It should be remembered that President Trump is not an overly enthusiastic fan of the USA trade deal with Canada and Mexico, a deal he continually laments as detrimental to the USA.
Didn’t President Trump make a brief trip to the UK last July and get more or less booed out of London? Yes, indeed. He had a 100,000-strong protest crowd following wherever he went – even to his golf club in Scotland. It was not a measurable success – and it wasn’t even a state visit, more of a social call for tea with the Queen with an inspection of her Household Guard thrown in so the Americans could appreciate a military display at its best.
That earlier visit did have revised dates. Maybe this one will too, although it has enough promised glitter to entice a president who likes to think of himself as royalty and will love and envy the genuine trappings of historic royals. But June 3 is a long way off, and Trump’s reception prospects are darkening.
Nick Deardon, the man who organized the 100,000-strong protest last year, is already forecasting an even larger protest. Last year, they had a small Trump look-alike balloon floating over the protesters. This coming June, they promise to have two more, even larger balloons to match Deardon’s larger crowd.
“It is up to us to say Trump is not welcome,” says Deardon. “We want to make his visit as unpleasant as possible. We are going for maximum disruption.”
A year ago, in addition to the street protest, Deardon collected two million signatures on a protest petition. Parliament refused to accept it. This year, some of the parliament’s most influential members have made it painfully clear President Trump is not welcome.
John Bercow, Speaker to the House of Commons, has declined an invitation to the state dinner and says that, as speaker, he will deny Trump the traditional permission to address parliament. He has, in turn, been criticized for “being disrespectful” to the leader of a friendly ally.
Jeremy Corbin, leader of the Labour Party Opposition, has also declined the invitation to Trump’s state functions: “We should not honour a president who uses racist and misogynist rhetoric. (And), Theresa May should not be rolling out the red carpet for a state visit to honour a president who rips up vital international treaties (and) backs climate change denial …”
Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, has also declined state visit invitations but has remained silent about his reasons.
Any forecast on how things might go if Trump (a) decides to rub shoulders with genuine royals and promise England a few hefty trade deals to ease the cost of Brexit; or (b) decides to skip London and go directly to France and the 75th anniversary of D-Day?
Not really. Regardless of the outcome of the Trump state visit invitation, Brexit’s a mess, and the road ahead for England appears extraordinarily rough and a grim reminder that “great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment …” (Job 32 v8), especially in matters political.