By Chaminda Jayanetti
Where once there stood grown-ups, now there crawl man-babies. The election of Donald Trump as US president is the most dangerous moment for Western democracy and global stability since the fall of the Soviet Union – possibly even since the end of World War II. But the reaction of the British government and right wing press has been inadequate on every level.
A quick reminder. A man accused of serial sexual assaults has just been elected president on the back of the most racist major-party election campaign in living memory. He is openly supported by the Ku Klux Klan. He has been actively assisted by the Russian autocracy which currently has its eyes on chunks of Eastern Europe. He shows little interest in Nato. His chief strategist was head of a far right website. His new national security adviser said that "fear of Muslims is rational" and described Islam as like "cancer". He campaigned on a platform of banning Muslim immigration and deporting Mexicans, and has not ruled out creating a sinister national register of American Muslims. He is, in short, not ok.
The reaction from the British Right has been pathetically myopic and self-absorbed. All the above pales in their eyes when set against the new national obsession – a trade deal. We never used to care about trade deals. The controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership mega-deal was underreported outside the left-wing press before its apparent death this year. Not an eyelid was batted at the EU-South Korea free trade deal that took effect last year.
Upcoming agreements with Central American and Southern African states interest nobody. But like a boy band member who storms out to launch a solo career, Britain is suddenly obsessed with landing a big gig to justify its own impetuousness. To land a trade deal with America would be like playing Knebworth – a show of strength and a two-fingered salute while the bandmates got dropped by their label. The dream of a sell-out world tour, with fans reaching out in adulation, is more enticing than the possibility of switching on Harrogate town centre's Christmas lights.
So here we are. While showing reckless disregard for the EU trade deals we already have, we chase the glimmer of a deal with the US as our one shot at performative national self-affirmation. Nobody would have cared about such a deal in the past. Nobody has the faintest idea what they'd want such a deal to include – least of all, one suspects, ministers themselves. Apparently the way to ride the crest of an "anti-globalisation" wave is a wave of global trade deals. Hair of the dog and all that.
All other considerations melt away. Who cares if the Nato alliance is threatened? Who's keeping score if Russia feels emboldened to drive its tanks over a few more lawns? What does it matter if the US government is gearing up for a racialised crackdown on basic rights? We have a trade deal to beg for.
What would such a deal even secure? British luxury jam in exchange for American men's rights activists? As a far smaller trading body than the USA, Britain would not enter talks from a position of strength, and would be up against a president who thinks only of himself.
As ever, it's the self-proclaimed patriots who are debasing this country. Nigel Farage has turned the UK "Independence" Party into an appendage of the US president-elect. The Daily Telegraph devotes its front pages to upgrading Nigel's motley crew of midlife crises into Britain's Washington embassy.
"He has a direct link to Trump that could secure us a trade deal!" Perhaps they also think Roman Abramovich will keep Vladimir Putin out of Latvia on our behalf.
The government itself is not above this, of course. The cabinet reportedly wants to wheel out Her Majesty and hole up Donald and Melania in Windsor Castle – which he'll no doubt compare unfavourably to Trump Tower – to win their hearts away from Mr Farage. The fact that the cabinet runs the country while Farage can barely run a party with one MP apparently doesn't count.
How many former prime ministers must be spinning in their graves at Britain basing its attitude to a dangerous man, at a dangerous time, on our prospects for a trade deal we didn't want or need before June. Like the pathetic servile courtiers of a naked king, we prostrate ourselves in the hope of a decimal point of GDP's worth of patronage while ignoring the monstrosities that lie in full sight. We are not trying to build a bridge to the White House. We are digging a pit into which the free world can sink in the hope we might find a nugget of gold.
But maybe this is where the Atlantic alliance was destined to end – Britain selling itself for a few coins of silver in the hope Donald Trump will grab us by the pussy. As relationships go, it always was a special one.
Chaminda Jayanetti is a freelance journalist
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