The term ‘special relationship’ has always made me somewhat cringe. It is perhaps one of the best singular examples of political speak and etiquette, with an added dose of nostalgic affection. The whole procedure of the Prime Minister visiting the newly installed President just days after his inauguration played very much into the ‘special relationship’ dialogue and was of course tied into the beginning of constructing post-Brexit Britain’s relationship with the powers of the world. The announcement of a state visit by the President later this year, instigated by the PM and the Queen, increased the ‘special relationship’ references even further. Some were pleasantly surprised by this announcement, others were rather less so.
As of Saturday 4th February nearly 1.85million people in the UK were that displeased by the plans for the state visit that they had signed a petition demanding that the President be not invited for a state visit because of his “well-documented misogyny and vulgarity” that “disqualifies him from being received by Her Majesty the Queen or the Prince of Wales.” The petition also states that President Trump should be allowed entry to the UK because of his capacity as head of the US government, but that he should not be invited outright.
Much of the outrage and outcry that motivated the drawing up of this petition came from the President’s recent 120-day suspension of immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. To outright refuse to host the newly elected President on the basis of this recent executive order amongst other things is ultimately unconstructive. Yes, the actions are outrageous, ridiculous and unacceptable, but to shut him out rather than hosting him while challenging and condemning the actions is the wrong thing to do. Refusing to have President Trump is in principle the same action that he is implementing upon the immigrants of those seven countries. Yes, the motives are very much different, but if actions like this latest extremely disturbing instalment are to be successfully debunked and revoked, we must act with total integrity and not fight fire with fire.
What worries me greatly, however, is the PM’s continuing avoidance of in any way commenting or entering into any dialogue in the shocking actions of President Trump. It concerns me because political and economic relationships are being prioritised over defending facts and moral integrity. The ban ordered via executive action was not based on anti-terror facts, has questionable legal grounding and is ultimately the morally incorrect thing to do in a fragile world that feels more ready to divide than unite right not. These things should be called out by all, irrespective of the nature of relationship a country has with the United States and President Trump. The obsessive use of terming the relationship between the UK and US as ‘special’ surely enhances this need. If a close friend suddenly starts behaving in an outrageous and immoral way based on falsehoods and lies you would call them out on it, not continue to suck up to them and outright ignore what was happening in order to maintain your ‘special relationship’?
This is what comes across from the way the PM is behaving around the recent actions of the President and it is deeply concerning. If the above is the premise for the approach being taken, then politics at hand are, in this instant redundant and overstepping their remit. Political and diplomatic ties should not be valued above facts, law and moral grounding. If they are then politics is not only flawed, but it’s not working. Even more concerning is that this is not the first time the British government has turned a blind eye to unacceptable behaviour by world powers in order to maintain political and economic relationships, and it’s unlikely to be the last. Some say to call President Trump out on their foreign policy is interfering in the affairs of the US, but if public comment cannot be passed on something of the magnitude of this then when can it be? Politics is a process that has methods of general practice. The whole procedure is conducted in a known, expected way, but if that’s the rationale behind the PM’s position on President Trump then the process is broken and deeply concerning.