Evening Standard comment: How Mrs May should deal with Mr Trump; Pride in the Three Lions

EVENING STANDARD COMMENT

“We may be a small country but we’re a great one too.” So says Prime Minister Hugh Grant when standing up to an arrogant and misogynistic US President in the movie Love Actually.

He goes on to list the sources of our nation’s greatness — Churchill, Sean Connery and David Beckham’s left foot — before he says to the American leader: “A friend who bullies us is no longer a friend; and since bullies only respond to strength, from now on I will be prepared to be much stronger.”

It is a fantasy, of course.

Churchill is still very much in vogue, with the big black-tie presidential dinner tonight at his birthplace of Blenheim Palace, but it’s Kieran Trippier’s feet and Love Island’s hairless-chested contestants we celebrate these days. And no British Prime Minister would be advised to cause such a public breach with our principal ally and head of the Western alliance.

Or would they? When Donald Trump finally arrives in London today — after a year’s delay, in which he has visited many other European countries — he will be greeted by a host of protesters and a giant inflatable blimp .

Like previous presidents he won’t see much evidence of these protests as he’s helicoptered from Winfield House to Windsor and Chequers. So far, so predictable.

Large demonstrations welcomed Presidents Reagan and George W Bush to these islands before him, and they were sensibly shielded from them. But what makes Donald Trump different is that he is the protester-in-chief, and the target of his remonstrations is the Western alliance.

Much that is written and said about Mr Trump is over the top.

His impressive tax reforms have boosted the US economy, his criticism of European defence budgets has merit, and his bold outreach to North Korea brings the prospect of peace.

But in the past few days the President has attacked Nato, belittled another close ally, Germany , lauded Russian president Vladimir Putin, embarrassed Theresa May, suggested meeting our former Foreign Secretary, not the current one, and described Britain as being in “turmoil”.

At the same time he has escalated the trade war with not just China but Canada and the EU (which, for now, still includes the UK) — sending shivers through the global economy.

He shows no respect for us, bullies our friends and hugs our enemies. He is systematically unpicking the network of institutions and agreements that provide the foundations of our prosperity and security.

No one would ever mistake Theresa May for Hugh Grant, and only the hot-headed would suggest a bust-up at the presidential press conference.

But it is true that the US President is not as reliable a friend as he should be, and it is also true that bullies respond to strength.

Mrs May and her ministers should, in private, express forcefully their concern about the actions of this US administration.

In public, they should avoid fawning, and state our national interests in moderate but clear terms.

What is needed now from Britain’s government in dealing with Mr Trump is strength, actually.


It didn’t come home

Football is not coming home after all, but England’s place in world football has, nonetheless, been restored, and with it an important element of national pride.

Gareth Southgate’s team was the second-youngest in the tournament; the youth of the squad means that they can hope for greater things in the future.

In two years we will have the Euros; in four, another World Cup. There is huge scope for this team to mature; but for now, we are proud of them.

They showed qualities of resilience and determination which will be enormously influential for young people.

As for Southgate, he united the nation by dint of his civility, unflappability and human decency as well as the skilful deployment of his waistcoat.

At a time when these qualities are not always in evidence in our politics, it was cheering to have Englishness expressed in a fashion that unites the nation.

Well done to them.