Opinion: Rolling out the red carpet for ′nasty′ leaders is actually rather British | Opinion | DW | 03.06.2019
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Opinion

Opinion: Rolling out the red carpet for 'nasty' leaders is actually rather British

Seeing Donald Trump go after London Mayor Sadiq Khan was as predictable as seeing Trump spell his name wrong. But Khan's mistaken about one thing, Mark Hallam says; it's very British to fawn over this misogynist fibber.

Donald Trump certainly won't be the classiest cat ever to sit down with Queen Elizabeth II. But nor will he be the nastiest, to use his own chosen adjective of the week.

Read more:   Trump arrives in the UK, protests planned

London Mayor Sadiq Khan drew the ire of The Donald with his column in The Observer this weekend, arguing "It's un-British to roll out the red carpet for Donald Trump."

Trump, ever one to take the high road, decided his best means of response was a two-part set of Twitter insults aimed at Khan, spelling his name Kahn, as Air Force One touched down in the UK. 

Mysteriously, he also thought it wise to use the very same "nasty" label he had used to describe Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex — because reminding your hosts that you insulted the second-newest member of their family in one of the country's top-selling papers is sure to keep the wine and the conversation flowing.

Trump, for his part, seems improperly keen on a second meeting with Her Majesty, based on an old interview with his chum from reality TV show The Apprentice, Piers Morgan: "She's an incredible woman, she is so sharp, she is so beautiful. And when I say beautiful: inside and out, that is a beautiful woman." Golly, 97-year-old Prince Philip and the corgis had better stay on guard.

Outgoing leader Theresa May and the Tories should remain watchful, too. He's barely even hit the tarmac in London, but already Trump has backed Boris Johnson as a possible next prime minister and suggested sending Nigel Farage off to "negotiate Brexit" in Brussels. These suggestions will go down rather better in certain British newspapers and among Conservative members than it will among the party leadership, desperately trying to find both an electable leader and a way to deliver Brexit without voluntarily crashing the economy or triggering a risky election first.

Proud tradition of pandering to miscreants

Public dissatisfaction and even protests like the massive inflatable Trump Baby blimp are entirely understandable as this contentious commander in chief comes to town. It's also in keeping with the restless Brexit mood in the UK. Still, let's keep things in perspective.

While it's true that not every world leader is afforded a state visit, it's also true that plenty of reprehensible ones have enjoyed the honor before Trump. And it's just as likely that far worse will follow the real estate mogul turned rant merchant.

Arguably the world's most experienced stateswoman, Queen Elizabeth II could handle Trump with one arm behind her back. 

Romania's Nicolae Ceausescu waves outside 10 Downing Street, stood next to Prime Minister James Callaghan. Archive image from 1978. (Getty Images/Keystone)

Buckingham Palace cleared out the valuables ahead of the Ceausescus' 1978 state visit, after a tipoff from the French

She's seen off Romania's Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu in 1978, and the corrupt and mentally unbalanced Mobuto Sese Seko (of what was then known as Zaire) in 1973. She's entertained a quartet of Saudi kings over the decades, and presumably MBS won't have that long to wait to complete the full house since Faisal's visit in 1967.

Zimbabwe's authoritarian Robert Mugabe was knighted when he rocked up in 1994. And in 2003, as the second Iraq war began, Buckingham Palace hedged its bets — welcoming Russia's Vladimir Putin in June and US President George W. Bush in November. China's Xi Jinping, Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin all had their moment on the Mall. Ugandan butcher Idi Amin didn't get a full state visit, but he dined with Elizabeth in 1971.

Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe shakes hands with Prime Minister John Major outside 10 Downing Street, London, May 18, 1994. (Getty Images/AFP/A. Winning )

On his state visit in 1994, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe (right) also met with Prime Minister John Major

Almost all these leaders prompted some kinds of protests. It's no surprise that Trump, with his oversized profile, may draw out larger crowds and more inventive insults. But in truth, it's also a little sad that the golf-obsessed blowhard mobilizes the masses more effectively than some of recent history's genuine villains.

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