As the President of the United States was feted in London, many wondered whether Donald Trump and Boris Johnson were cloned from the same stem cell.
Both were born in America, both have ridiculous blond haircuts, both have two ex-wives, both have an, at best, arm’s length relationship with the truth, both have been accused of misconduct in public life, both appear to make up policy on the hoof, both rely on bombast, both had privileged, wealthy upbringings, and both represent a strand of Right-wing populism mixed with nationalism that has been on the rise across the globe.
Conservative election strategists were terrified that Trump would over-egg his close relationship with Boris, fuelling Labour accusations that a US-UK trade deal will lead to an NHS sell-off and higher drug prices.
Trump initially played ball, saying that America wouldn’t buy the NHS if it was a offered on a silver platter, although the way he said it was worrying. He went into Ray Winstone mode – not me, guv. You’re ‘aving a laugh, ain’t you? My former colleague Quentin Letts put it better in The Times: “Mr Trump reacted with the indignant innocence of Captain Hook caught about to deflower Tinkerbell.”
That said, Trump promised – while praising Boris – not to interfere in our domestic elections. And he reserved his venom for French President Emmanuel Macron and Canada’s Justin Trudeau. Which is not what Labour strategists had hoped for – party activists at recent rallies have taken up a chorus of “Not for sale! Not for sale!” – and they relished the prospect of a Trump attack on Jeremy Corbyn.
Trump suggested that he didn’t know who Corbyn was and, bizarrely, didn’t know why the NHS was being raised as an election issue, even though it was he, during his last visit in June, who sparked the storm by saying everything should be on the table in post-Brexit trade deals.
For Labour, the summit has therefore had a mixed impact. And Jeremy Corbyn will hate me for pointing out that he too shares many of Trump’s characteristics.
Both are on their third wives, both enjoyed a prosperous, entitled childhood, both can’t stand being challenged or contradicted, both have made up back-stories of their upbringing, both are always convinced they are right and anyone who does not share their ever-changing world-views are the enemy, particularly within their own parties, both get tetchy on TV and are uncomfortable when taken out of the bubble of their adoring fanbase. And temperamentally, both have the breaking strain of a Kit Kat and skin as thin as a cigarette paper.
Boris, Jeremy and Donald have more in common than at least one of them would admit to.
ROUND 11: Tories 7/10