Trump seems to have a special relationship with Nigel Farage. I think he has a superficial understanding of the world, but part of that superficial understanding is a memory of the Reagan Administration. This is a man who deals in televised imagery. He’s not learned and knowledgeable, but he is fairly smart, on an instinctive level, about communications and image. He would like, I think, to replicate a kind of Reagan-standing-tall world leadership. Part of that is remembering the Reagan-Thatcher relationship, which he proposes to re-establish with Theresa May.
After Brexit, we probably should have seen Trump coming. I was discounting the analogy, but in retrospect – despite the many subtle differences between the two societies – there is a remarkable symmetry between the UK and the US when you think about it. 1979 Thatcher, 1980 Reagan. 1992 Bill Clinton, 1994 Tony Blair. And now Brexit and Trump in 2016. There is a kind of trans-Atlantic confluence of moods and political turns. So I suspect that both May and Trump will see each other’s countries as more or less congruent in this moment.
“Understand that the term ‘special relationship’ means a lot more to the British than it does to Americans.”
If there are protests when he comes to the UK… well, he’s a narcissist, and he believes that all press coverage is good coverage and all attention is good attention. So he’ll probably thrive on it and he’ll probably have a few canned lines to dismiss the protestors. But as long as he’s the centre of attention, I think he loves it.
Understand that the term ‘special relationship’ means a lot more to the British than it does to Americans. Trump probably is not aware of it. But the truth of the matter is that Britain is the United States’ closest ally, and that’s going to be impressed upon him in many ways by his advisers from the national security establishment. So I wouldn’t expect some sort of radical alteration in that.
Christopher Phelps is co-author of Radicals In America: The US Left Since The Second World War.