Is Johnson’s Friendship With Trump The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name?

Labour hoping Trump can give Corbyn the boost he needs to swing this election.

Sign up now to get The Waugh Zone, our weekday evening politics briefing, by email.

With just over a week to polling day, can Donald Trump give Jeremy Corbyn the extra bump he needs in the UK election?

So far (and the day is not out of course), the president has shown a rare self-control. He’s not tweeted anything derogatory about Labour and he’s claimed he will “stay out” of the election.

Instead, he’s spent most of his time in the displacement activity of slagging off president Emmanuel Macron, whose remark about Nato being “brain dead” Trump said was “very, very nasty” as well as “very dangerous” and “very disrespectful”. When the pair met, Trump came up with this bizarre threat: “Would you like some nice ISIS fighters? I can give them to you!”

Trump being Trump, he couldn’t resist the odd lie/serial amnesia (delete according to your preference), as he said of Prince Andrew “I don’t know him” (the Duke of York’s own official Twitter account this year showed them at a business breakfast, and Trump told the Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn he had played a round of golf with the Queen’s second son).

On the UK election, Trump’s self-denying ordinance didn’t last long as he said Boris Johnson was “very capable” and would “do a good job” if re-elected. As for the ‘NHS-for-sale’ charge made by Corbyn, POTUS said “we wouldn’t want it if you handed it to us on a silver platter”.

Of course, Trump doesn’t want what Americans call a ’socialist” health system. But there’s no question US health firms and big pharma would love a bigger profits slice of the NHS drugs market. Corbyn said he would raise the issue at the Buckingham Palace reception for Nato, but in the end the pair simply didn’t meet.

Whether the non-meeting between president and the Labour leader was the work of the Queen’s courtiers or No.10’s careful diplomacy, the fact is that Johnson is very keen on reducing any ‘toxic Trump’ damage that could be caused to himself and the Tory party.‌

When Trump turned up on the steps of No.10, there was no welcoming handshake from the PM. In fact there was no welcome for the cameras at all. Tomorrow, there will be no joint press conference (they will stage separate Q&As an hour apart) at the summit hotel in Hertfordshire and no bilateral meetings are planned to take place in public. It’s all a far cry from the flashbulb-fest of Cameron and Obama, or May and Trump.

The Tory party has long worried that the timing of this Nato summit could throw a hand grenade into their attempt to just keep their polling lead intact for December 12. And their nervousness over those polls is palpable. With nine days to go, the Tory lead is nine points (according to YouGov).

Johnson started the election campaign by talking about the need to end “Brexit groundhoggery”. Yet what if we are seeing polling groundhoggery? Across several polls, there has been that slow uptick in Labour support at the expense of the Liberal Democrats.

And what’s cheering some around Corbyn is just how similar the some of the current polls are to 2017, at the same stage in the race. Yes, the Tories are higher but their lead is showing similar shrinkage. This weekend, if YouGov has that lead still smaller, it could be game on for a hung parliament.

Johnson and Corbyn have a chance in Friday night’s BBC head-to-head debate to shift things. Yet I wonder whether the PM’s appearing to duck the Andrew Neil interview will make a difference?‌

May was hit hard two years ago by being seen as chicken. And a new Lord Ashcroft poll today suggested the Neil interview cowardice was the 6th most noticed item of political news. Johnson can run from Trump, but being seen to run from scrutiny could prove a bad look.

Quote Of The Day

“I can work with anybody, I’m a very easy person to work with.”

Donald Trump on his all round affability

Tuesday’s Election Cheat Sheet

Jeremy Corbyn said he was “obviously very sorry” for Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis. “I am dealing with it, I have dealt with it,” he told ITV’s This Morning.

Channel 4 was cleared by regulator Ofcom of bias after replacing Boris Johnson with a melting block of ice in its leadership debate on the climate emergency.

Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson confirmed a member of her party’s staff had been suspended for “faking” an email during a legal fight with news site Open Democracy.

Labour’s Laura Pidcock, when asked if she knew of any Russian role in leaking government documents about the NHS and the US, said she was “not privy to that information”.

The Electoral Reform Society said there was an appetite for record numbers of tactical voters in this election. Its new BMG Research poll found 30% of the public say they will be “voting for the best-positioned party/candidate to keep out another party/candidate that I dislike” on December 12.

What I’m Reading

Got A Tip?

Send tips, stories, quotes, pics, plugs or gossip to waugh.zone@huffpost.com.

Subscribe To Commons People

Each week, the HuffPost UK Politics team unpack the biggest stories from Westminster and beyond. Search for Commons People wherever you listen to podcasts and subscribe.