Voices: Why is the UK hosting Ron DeSantis? Even Mickey Mouse hates him

·4-min read

The race for the White House is heating up in the US, and you know what that means: it’s gradually starting to become the UK’s problem, too.

The first signs of an approaching US invasion have already landed on our shores, as UK foreign secretary James Cleverly hosted Florida governor Ron DeSantis in London, where they apparently discussed “the close and important partnership between the UK and Florida”. You know, those close and important ties we famously have with the sunshine state. We send them our most obnoxious Disney adults. They send us an annual hamper full of gator meat (I assume).

The visit seems to be an early indicator of DeSantis’s presumed run for the Republican nomination, as he jockeys for position with former president Donald Trump. It’s not surprising that the governor is starting to make these bigger moves, as in recent months his position as party favourite and presumptive nominee has slipped slightly, as early polling suggests that Americans are ready for a heaping second helping of Donald gumbo.

Rishi Sunak will be avoiding DeSantis during his visit, with No 10 saying that it is “not standard protocol” for a prime minister to meet a governor. It’s not too surprising that the government would be wary of making too big a play one way or the other when it comes to cosying up to Republican nominees. Remember in 2016 when nobody took Donald Trump’s run for president seriously, and then parliament had a serious debate about whether or not we should ban him from the UK for hate speech? And then about a month later it became really clear that he would probably end up being the Republican nominee, and they had to start forming serious diplomatic ties with a man they spent three hours calling a “poisonous… buffoon”? Truly the year that we took satire out behind the barn and gave it the Old Yeller treatment.

It’s a good thing the government has learned its lesson since then, since if he hadn’t been immediately prefigured by Trump then DeSantis might be considered worthy of similar treatment. The governor has received a torrent of criticism since taking the position, largely due to his attitudes towards the LGBT+ community in Florida, including his support of the “don’t say gay” law banning discussions of sexual orientation or gender identity in schools.

That isn’t even to mention his disastrous mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has ravaged the state due in part to DeSantis’s constant pandering to his anti-science base, including promoting hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin as methods to combat the virus, withholding pay from school board members requiring masks, and offering unvaccinated cops $5,000 to relocate to Florida.

He’s also being sued by Disney for allegedly violating the company’s constitutional rights after state officials blocked a development deal for a new theme park, which is such a quintessentially American sentence that it’s making me hungry for apple pie and some of that gator meat. I guess Trump isn’t the only Donald that DeSantis has to fear at the moment.

With all that to consider, it’s honestly a wonder that even Cleverly hosted him. It’s one thing to host a volatile politician when you know they might be president soon, but doing so when he hasn’t even announced his intention to run feels like jumping the gun a little bit. He should change his name to James not-so-Cleverly. I’m not going to check, but I think I might be the first person to ever make that joke.

With the current state of world politics, the UK already has enough demagogues to cosy up to as part of the normal diplomatic course of operations (with Rishi Sunak’s endorsement by far right Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni being the most recent embarrassment). The last thing we need to be doing is hosting somebody who may not even win, and is being taken to court by Mickey Mouse.

The UK has already built a reputation for itself as the Florida of Europe. Let’s not reinforce that view by buddying up with the ultimate Florida Man.