Why childish Donald Trump protesters are in the wrong - Andrew Vine

AS an exercise in sheer pointlessness, the protests likely to dog Donald Trump’s state visit to Britain this week will take some beating.

Protesters demonstrated against Trump in London last year and are expected to do the same during his state visit to the UK.
Protesters demonstrated against Trump in London last year and are expected to do the same during his state visit to the UK.

A rag-tag coalition of the self-righteous, right-on and faux-outraged will march, wave placards, and generally behave like truculent toddlers throwing their dummies out of the pram, and in doing so will make our country look petty and juvenile.

And scheduled to fly above their heads in London is the ultimate symbol of how puerile these protests are – a blimp depicting Trump as a nappy-clad baby.

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This is no way for the people of a civilised, mature democracy to behave towards a guest of this country, let alone the leader of Britain’s closest ally which is bound to become of even more value to us in a post-Brexit world.

US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania arrive at Stansted Airport in Essex, aboard Air Force One for the start of his three day state visit to the UK. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

It is to be hoped that protesters have sufficient decency not to intrude upon the D Day 75th anniversary commemorations in Portsmouth on Wednesday and then in France on Thursday, which should be about reflection, respect and remembrance.

Trump deserves to be treated with respect, too. Yes, he’s a peculiarly charmless individual, and it’s hard to find anything to like about him given the boorishness that appears to lie at the heart of his character.

And yes, his track record on the treatment of women is reprehensible, his business dealings mark him as a scoundrel and it may also turn out that the persistent allegations of collusion with Russia have some substance.

Yet he still should be welcomed politely and with dignity. His status as the head of state of the world’s most powerful democracy demands that is the case.

Nor should we forget that on his watch the American economy is doing well and he remains immensely popular with large parts of his electorate, which has cheered his attitudes towards immigration and foreign competition.

Whether people waving placards like it or not, he is a successful president who might well win a second term in next year’s election.

No amount of yah-booing on the streets of London or flying of balloons is going to change that, and those who turn out to insult Trump might usefully reflect how outraged Britain would be if a foreign country greeted a visit from a member of the Royal Family in such a manner.

They might also ponder that Britain has in the past rolled out the red carpet for some leaders so odious that they make Trump seem positively saintly.

Think of the Communist dictator of Romania, Nicolae Ceaușescu, who starved and defrauded his country and triggered Europe’s worst AIDS crisis before being toppled, put up against a wall and shot on Christmas Day 1989. Then there was the monstrous Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

Both were afforded full pomp and ceremony because to do so was in Britain’s interests.

So it is with the US President. Disagreements over his country’s attitudes towards China or Iran are for the Government to discuss privately with the aim of reaching consensus. Crowds shouting abuse will achieve nothing.

Nor will posturing by political figures. Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to snub the state banquet for Trump looks less like a principled position than an act of petulance from a man who has harboured a lifelong animosity towards America and sees an opportunity to deliver an insult.

That’s unworthy of anybody who aspires to be Prime Minister, and in this case could ultimately be harmful to Britain. If, as is possible, the Labour leader wins office, he will have no choice but to deal with the president.

The Commons Speaker, John Bercow, should also have that in mind. His loudly-proclaimed ban on Trump addressing Parliament the last time he visited Britain amounted to a self-important piece of theatre that could potentially poison relations.

In dealing with Trump, Britain could do worse than look across the Channel to France, where President Macron has plainly swallowed whatever distaste he has in order to get the most out of the relationship for the sake of his country.

There, protesters were kept firmly out of sight during Trump’s 2017 visit to Paris, and if any attempt is made to disrupt the D Day commemorations which hold the most special of places in French hearts, woe betide them.

Britain has done the right thing in granting Trump all the ceremony of a state visit. This is about much more than him, because he will, either next year or in 2024, be a memory.

It’s about respecting the office he holds, recognising that his visit marks remembrance of a pivotal moment in history and the affirmation of a long and mutually beneficial relationship between us and America. That demands a welcome characterised by courtesy and civility and not a rabble bawling abuse in the streets.