1. THE HAIR APPARENT
Today, Donald Trump finally gets the full-on Royal reception he’s long craved, as he starts his three-day State Visit to the UK amid all the pomp and pageantry the country can muster. After a ceremonial guard of honour welcoming him to Buckingham Palace, he gets a private lunch with the Queen, tea with Prince Charles and then a lavish banquet tonight. Meghan Markle won’t be present, so won’t have to put up with Trump lying about having called her ‘nasty’ to the Sun newspaper.
Before he even touched down, Trump had a pop at ‘nasty’ London Mayor Sadiq Khan (attacking his height among other things). The political business takes place tomorrow with talks at No.10 and what promises to be an even more surreal press conference than usual. With Theresa May a lame duck leader, Trump will have the chance to ram home to her potential successors his firm demands on things like Huawei and Brexit trade deals.
The FT reported this weekend that Trump would tell May that the Huawei issue posed “significant challenges for US-UK intelligence co-operation.” Our own National Cyber Security Centre chiefs have explained exactly why the UK is taking a ‘managed risk’ approach to Huawei. As for May, her overnight words included a hint about our “unrivalled intelligence-sharing” that suggested she felt the 5G issue would not, or should not, impact on the special relationship.
But it looks more than ever the spooks’ advice is being ignored in favour of the politics, and the looming anniversary of Tiananmen Square tomorrow certainly gives Trump a powerful reminder of Chinese authoritarianism. Sajid Javid broke cover yesterday to express his own scepticism about allowing the Chinese firm access to our 5G network, echoing Jeremy Hunt’s concerns. Hunt told Today: “We take careful notice of everything the US says on these issues..In reality we always make sure intelligence sharing is done in the most secure channels and Huawei equipment would would never be involved in that…they don’t have a veto”.
Of course, the real Trump meeting that many are keeping an eye on is a possible private audience not with the Queen or May, but with Boris Johnson. I’ve written HERE on the similarities and differences between the president and the heir apparent as our next PM. Johnson has yet to pronounce on Huawei, but given his previous criticism of Beijing over climate change and Hong Kong, we can expect him to take a line that would please Trump.
The bigger worry among MPs is that Trump is bossing about the UK with an authoritarian tone and gift for interference to make the Chinese blush. His ambassador yesterday suggested that the NHS would be ‘on the table’ any post-Brexit US-UK trade deal. Trump, having lambasted Obama for interfering in the Brexit referendum, spent the last few days citing his favourites (Johnson, Hunt) for the Tory leadership.
More broadly, his politics of resentment really means ‘America First’ is not a slogan but a policy that is prepared to tear up old alliances. Announcing new trade tariffs, Trump this weekend tweeted that “Mexico is an ‘abuser’ of the United States, taking but never giving”. His son-in-law and chief foreign policy adviser Jared Kushner has given a revealing interview to Axios, in which he suggests that after World War II, other nations took advantage of America. It’s now time to “rebalance” trade and burden sharing, he said. Buckle up, folks.
2. RAW BREX APPEAL
Health secretary Matt Hancock continues to make a mark in a crowded field, and yesterday was very quick to rebuff the idea that Trump would get his way in a post-Brexit trade deal. “The NHS will not be on the table in any future trade talks,” he tweeted. And in a speech this morning, he will underline his centrist credentials by pledging to lift all immigration restrictions for qualified doctors and nurses of any nationality who have secured a job in the NHS.
Domestic policy is inevitably seen through the prism of Brexit in the Tory leadership race, but Boris Johnson dips his toe today into education issues with his first concrete policy offer of the contest, writing in the Telegraph that he wants every secondary school to spend at least £5,000 per pupil. No word on how it will be funded, but it clearly aims to woo Tory MPs who complain their areas lose out, while not cutting non-Tory cities and towns.
Johnson has finally launched his campaign video, featuring him chatting to voters on the doorstep, including those who had never backed the Conservatives. “Now is the time to unite our society”, he says. He’s using a lot of the old tunes he did when he twice won in Labour-dominated London, including the same #backboris slogan. It worked back in 2008 and 2012, but we’ve had a certain EU referendum since then of course.
But on the issue of Brexit itself, the candidates are having to refine exactly whether they are no-dealers or new-dealers. The former (like Dominic Raab) categorically rule out agreeing to any extension to the October 31 deadline, while the latter (Michael Gove, slowly gaining momentum) admit they may need some flexibility on timing to get a better deal. Javid was tied in knots on this by Marr yesterday, saying seeking an extension is “not something I would do”. But he then confused things by saying if Parliament passed a law forcing him to (er, it can’t), he “would not break the law”.
Hunt, seen by critics as a flip-flopper on no-deal, told Today “my position on this hasn’t changed at all” (always a telltale sign a politician is in trouble). He said that “if the only way was to leave without a deal I would do so…I would be prepared to do it in extremis.” Perhaps just as interesting was Hunt’s praise for Trump’s agenda of “big business cuts in tax”.
3. NARROWING THE FIELD
On one level, Trump’s arrival is a reminder that presidential politics is very different from parliamentary politics. It may seem bizarre to some Americans that a political leader can be removed from office not by impeachment or election but by pressure from their own party. It may seem even more bizarre that just 100,000 Conservative party members then choose the next prime minister, rather than 46 million voters. (Ironically, it was just 107,000 votes in three swing states, out of 120 million voters, that allowed Trump to beat Clinton in 2016).
Whether Trump will further wade into the Tory contest remains to be seen, but Jeremy Hunt was the first to greet him off the plane at Stansted. Tonight, Hunt, Penny Mordaunt and Michael Gove all have seats at the state banquet with the president. He may be relieved that not all 13 of the declared leadership candidates will be there.
James Brokenshire will this morning call for the long list to become a shortlist. And this afternoon the executive of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers is set to discuss calls from some of its members to narrow the race. At present, you need just a proposer and a seconder to become a candidate and some want to copy Labour’s system whereby you need a more solid show of support. Will the bar be set at 10 or 12 fellow MPs’ nominations? Some on the executive think it’s too late to change the rules now.
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch Jared Kushner duck the question when asked by Axios if Trump’s ‘birtherism’ claims about Barack Obama were racist. “I wasn’t really involved in that...that was a long time ago.”
4. IT’S THE SCIENCE, STUPID
It looks like Theresa May will raise the issue of climate change tomorrow, though it’s unclear whether she will “robustly challenge” him on the topic and the science. That’s what 250 leading UK academics have today written to the PM to demand, declaring that Trump’s “reckless approach is a threat to the whole world”.
Lib Dem leadership contender Ed Davey sparked his own party’s contest into life at the weekend by calling for an end to internal flights in the UK. As it happens Extinction Rebellion lawyer Farhana Yamin told Today that she was not keen on her organisation’s plan for deploying drones at Heathrow to disrupt holiday flights. “The use of drones isn’t what I would use as a strategy...non violence civil disobedience is best done by human beings.”
5. POPE-ULISM WARNING
Pope Francis is among those who have been brave enough to warn Trump about the need to get serious on climate change (as he has about building walls). The leader of the Catholic Church has a new warning to voters in the European Union that its founding vision is at risk from populist extremists.
“Please let’s not let Europe be overcome by pessimism or by ideologies, because Europe is not being attacked by canons or bombs in this moment, but by ideologies - ideologies that are not European, that come either from outside or which stem from small groups in Europe,” he said. It sounded like a pop at Matteo Salvini, the leader of the hardline League party, and others.
If you’re reading this on the web, sign-up HERE to get the WaughZone delivered to your inbox.
Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/