How would Britain deal with Donald Trump? 

Donald Trump's comments about Sadiq Khan are typically divisive and stupid. But if he does become president, what will become of our so-called special relationship with America?

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By Gaby Hinsliff on

Donald Trump doesn’t care if Britain thinks he’s stupid. We know this because he went on breakfast telly and suggested that both David Cameron (who called his proposed ban on all Muslims entering the US “stupid, divisive and wrong”) and London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan (who just called it “ignorant”), are basically dead to him now. “When he won, I wished him well and now I don’t care about him,” said Trump of Khan, before adding ominously that, “I will remember those statements.”

He then went on to show just how much he totally doesn’t care by suggesting that the Mayor should “do an IQ test’ and compare results with him – you know, like a completely relaxed, not at all intellectually insecure, couldn’t-care-less person naturally would. The overall "12-year-olds falling out in the playground" vibe could have been funny if it didn’t also mark the moment The Donald stopped being America’s problem, and officially became ours.

If Trump does win, then somehow deals will have to be done, friends found and pride swallowed in order to patch up a tattered special relationship

How would Britain deal with President Trump? Where would you even start with someone so off the conventional charts? When David Cameron originally used the S-word, the consensus was that Trump was never going to win, so what the hell? Now the unthinkable looks really quite possible, the pressure is on to backpedal. There’s just one teensy problem with that, and it’s that Cameron was right.

Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims – Olympic athletes, Nobel prize-winning scientists, global CEOs, world leaders or just ordinary families fancying a holiday in Disneyland – from entering the US is stupid and divisive and wrong. It would be shameful for Cameron to pretend any different, just as it would be wrong to condone the way Trump insults and belittles women.

But the thing about Trump’s weird attitude to women – highlighted yet again this week by a New York Times investigation, involving dozens of interviews with women who’ve known him over the decades – is that millions of American women seemingly don’t care. They’re voting for him anyway. They either don’t believe the evidence or else they think that everything else Trump stands for is just more important than gender. Trump remains more popular with male voters than with women, but the uncomfortable truth he’s exposing is that there are still loads of women for whom sexism isn’t actually a deal-breaker. Just as there are plenty of voters who clearly couldn’t give a toss that the rest of the world thinks banning Muslims, or building walls to keep Mexicans out, is bonkers.

And that’s the dilemma. People with extreme ideas and zilch experience aren't meant to rise to power in democracies, because voters are meant to have the sense to stop them. But what if they don’t?

The obvious risk British politicians would take by openly picking fights with a future President Trump is not just that he'd ignore us, but that he might very quickly up the ante. Since most Americans have never heard of Sadiq Khan and, frankly, don't care what some foreign local government guy thinks, your average presidential candidate would have blandly brushed off his intervention as an irrelevance. But not Trump, because he’s an unusually thin-skinned and emotional politician (odd how those are criticisms more usually made of women, eh?) whose trademark response to being criticised is to lash out in the most aggressively personal way. If Trump does win, then somehow deals will have to be done, friends found and pride swallowed in order to patch up a tattered special relationship.

But, as Tony Blair could testify, there’s a political risk too in leading wherever America follows – and with the Chilcot report on Iraq about to be published, right now that may be weighing quite heavily on Downing Street minds. Or, to put it another way, “he was Donald Trump’s poodle” is hardly the legacy of an outgoing prime minister’s dreams. Let's hope America isn't holding its breath for an apology. 


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Gaby Hinsliff

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