Evening Standard comment: Trump’s coming to town, like it or not; Cross about Crossrail; King’s Cross success

EVENING STANDARD COMMENT

Many of us have issued hasty invitations we later regret to people we don’t know that well — but Theresa May topped the scale with her offer of a state visit to Britain when she saw Donald Trump in the first week of his presidency.

Naively, she hoped it would mark the start of a warm alliance between them, leading to an easy trade deal after Brexit.

Instead, President Trump pocketed her offer, went on to praise Boris Johnson as someone who “would be a great prime minister”, made London the target of some of his most boorish tweets and never had any intention of opening up US markets to our goods without flooding Britain with low-standard food products in return.

Now the Democrats have taken control of the House of Representatives he can’t even offer that — as a more thoughtful US visitor, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, reminded us last week.

So how should we react to news that the President is set to turn up for a state visit at the start of June, amid events marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings?

We could just wish he wasn’t coming. But that won’t stop him.

He’ll enjoy provoking protesters who will, in return, enjoy taking to the streets to taunt him. Maybe the Extinction Rebellion crowd will try to stay camped in trees in Parliament Square until then. He’s a better target for their call for action on climate change than a British Government which agrees it exists, after all.

Or we could hide in the detail and ask whether Mr Trump deserves the honour of a state rather than a working visit.

But this is pointless. Some first-term presidents have been given one but most haven’t and the difference is more in the title than anything else.

It’s not the white-tie dinner at Windsor Castle that people object to. It’s the presence of the President himself.

So the question which matters is simply: should he come here? And the answer to that has to be yes — just as President Macron was right to welcome him to Paris.

We can’t pick and choose other world leaders. Diplomacy demands that countries engage, even when the leaders involved are undiplomatic.


Cross about Crossrail

Today’s powerful report from the London Assembly on delays to Crossrail explains some of what has gone wrong on the project.

It shows that its top managers either ignored reality or hadn’t a clue that the project was running badly off course, either of which is shocking.

It points out that signs that the planned December 2018 date was impossible to meet were obvious long before the Mayor, and the public, were finally told the truth last summer.

Consultants were reporting problems but as their warnings were fed upwards they were watered down, allowing those at the top to say all was well.

A system which paid big bonuses to its leaders encouraged a rush to get the line open which now looks foolhardy.

There was at least a year’s more work to do just to finish the tunnels and stations, as well as work to test trains and signals.

So who is to blame?

The report calls for the head of Transport for London, Mike Brown, to consider his position for not passing on warnings to the Mayor. It would do better to ask why the Mayor was not asking questions himself.

Where, for instance, was his transport deputy Val Shawcross — not mentioned in today’s report — before she stepped down in May 2018? The assembly committee didn’t even speak to her.

Mr Brown did not cause the delay. Now London needs him in his job to deal with the consequences.

As the Evening Standard reports from Tottenham Court Road station today, the line will be fantastic when it opens.

Getting there should be Mr Brown’s priority.


King’s Cross success

Nike is joining Facebook and Google by moving its offices to King’s Cross.

It’s another sign that the redevelopment there has been a triumph.

A mix of good transport, shops, a university and homes, reusing historic buildings, has made it a special place not a soulless one.

Can any city match it?