When President Trump arrives in the UK on July 13, a mixed reception awaits him. The President will have discussions with Her Majesty The Queen and Prime Minister Theresa May but can also expect to have to deal with some protests at his very presence on British soil.
That the President being in the UK will be protested is not particularly noteworthy in itself. What is interesting is that he will, thanks to a £16,000 crowdfunding effort and the permission of London Mayor Sadiq Khan, be greeted by an almost 20ft tall balloon likeness of himself, complete with perma-tan, striking blonde quiff, and… a nappy. In fact, the ‘Trump Baby’ may be the only piece of performance art heading to London this summer rather than swanning arrogantly from there up to Edinburgh.
The reaction to the Trump Baby project has been, in part, predictable. Most of the political left, our beloved centrists, and the more traditional Tory right have been either enthusiastic or view it with that tone of impartial-yet-frustrated snootiness that we Brits are the masters of. From where I stand, I think it’s quite funny, if a little disrespectful to the office. But it’s a Big Boy office and it can handle a bit of a joke; and ultimately, if done correctly and safely, it lets the protestors make their point.
How curious it is, however, to see objections to the Trump Baby blimp coming from some quarters of the political right. Nigel Farage, the poster-former banker for the alt-right and the broader non-traditionalist conservative popular movement in Britain, has expressed outrage at the Trump Baby being given permission to fly during the President’s visit. He has been joined by a number of other, mostly online (for that is where the alt-right lives), commentators who have taken it upon themselves to blush in the name of the President’s virtue and call for it to be stopped. There seems to be some serious hurt feelings on the right about this.
It’s not quite a blizzard – but there’s a few right-wing snowflakes about…
It’s never a really good idea to spend much of an article talking to your own home team, but I’m going to have to here.
For context, I’m generally, and particularly in terms of HuffPost bloggers, on the right. I’m a traditionalist, a small-c conservative (with a hefty dusting of liberal fuzziness), and can usually be found on the centre-right of most political issues. I’m instinctively conservative; I like low tax rates, I think traditional social and political institutions and structures are useful, and my guiding principle is something along the lines of, ‘once you’ve got a functioning society where most people are decent and nice to each other, leave as many of them as alone as you possibly can’. I’m like Geoff Norcott – except that I make up for not being as funny by having a Scottish accent.
However, core to my politics is a commitment to freedom of speech and expression.
This is where the pro-Brexit, faux-conservative, right-wing are, at best, lost me on this issue. There is no point at all in proclaiming, as that section of British society often does, that you are defenders of free speech and in the same breath condemning the political apparatus of our capital city for allowing some protesters to stage a funny stunt when the American President is in town. By throwing the toys out of the pram in such a way, that part of the political right demonstrates that far from being the valiant warriors for free speech, and scourge of the “social justice warrior”, they are acting like the biggest and most hyper-sensitive snowflake on the most leftie of university campuses – and it’s not a good look.
On some issues, the Farages of the world come from a different part of the political right from us small-c, One Nation guys but I thought that at least when it comes to questions of who can say what, when they can say it, where, and to whom, all of us on the political right understood that, even if sometimes it had to be said through clenched teeth, that, with a few exceptions for intimidation and threats etc, the intended speaker was free to do so. That principle is being let down here – pure and simple – and if you want to uphold it, support their right to fly the damn balloon.
My fellow right-wingers who find the Trump Baby balloon distasteful, do yourself a favour. Draw yourself up to your full height, have some dignity, and stick by the principles of freedom and personal liberty that form the core of our shared sphere of politics.
Otherwise, you, like the balloon, are just a bag of hot air!