FIRST impressions count – and Theresa May’s quiet diplomacy appears to have won her many friends in America, where she became the first international leader to meet President Donald Trump since his inauguration a week earlier.
Her business-like approach will only enhance the Prime Minister’s standing on the world stage still further as she prepares for Brexit and the key trade talks that will not only determine the country’s future prosperity, but make or break her political reputation.
However, from this vantage point in Yorkshire, it’s important that the British and American commentariat do not over-obsess about the body language at last night’s joint Press conference – and what it will mean for the future of the so-called ‘special relationship’. What matters is the personal rapport that the two leaders developed and their respective candour on those policy areas where they agree and disagree, not least the use of torture. In this regard, comparisons, however flattering, with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher can be unhelpful. The challenges of the Cold War were very different to the security concerns of today, and elements of electorate rebelling against the forces of globalisation that the collapse of Communism precipitated.
It’s also important that Britain and America have a robust relationship – Tony Blair and George W Bush’s acquiescence, reassuring in the aftermath of 9/11, had long-term repercussions for global security that will inevitably dominate the respective reigns of Mrs May and President Trump. And to all those who are unable to come to terms with the United States electing an uncompromising and unconventional tycoon, it is to Britain’s advantage to have a PM who has the ear of President Trump, a deal-maker who already values this unique trans-Atlantic partnership more than his predecessor, rather than a leader who simply shouts from the sidelines.
Attacks on paramedics are assault on society
PARAMEDICS and ambulance staff are already doing an extraordinary job in circumstances not made any easier by the NHS crisis and how crews cannot leave a 999 patient until they have been given the medical all-clear or formally admitted into A&E. Their resources have not kept pace with the rise in call-outs.
What these lifesavers, or all other public servants, do not deserve is the type of abuse, from verbal threats to spitting to physical violence and sexual assault in exceptional circumstances, meted out in the past three years.
These are not one-off occurrences involving drunks, drug addicts, the mentally ill or others who cannot control their own behaviour – there have been 1,500 reports of physical and verbal abuse in this time with 40 per cent of assaults resulting in injury. What a truly sorry indictment of contemporary Britain, a toll made even more disturbing by the testimony of Steve Krebs, a paramedic of 30 years standing, who has spoken publicly about how he feels “degraded” when spat at. He’d rather be punched.
Yet, in the eyes of the law, paramedics are second-class servants. For, while it is a criminal offence to assault a police, immigration or prison officer, with sentencing powers reflecting the seriousness of such incidents, NHS staff – whether doctors, nurses or ambulance crews – do not appear to come under the auspices of such legislation. An anomaly acknowledged by Theresa May at PMQs this week, there’s no excuse for the law not being remedied in timely fashion. The country’s medical staff and lifesavers deserve nothing less – every assault should be viewed as an assault on society.
A helping hand
NEXT week’s Parliamentary launch of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness is another fitting tribute to the late Batley & Spen MP. One of her many causes célèbres, it is the next phase of this newspaper’s campaign on the issue and we offer our sincere thanks to all those who have helped to pick up the baton.
More than nine million people of all ages now admit to being lonely, and health agencies are far more aware of the torment suffered by those who can’t count upon family or friends for support. This is borne out by Mrs Cox’s childhood experiences helping her grandfather, a postman, deliver the mail in Cleckheaton. For some recipients, this brief exchange was their only human contact of the day. As the late MP’s friend and colleague Rachel Reeves writes on the opposite page, this is not solely a matter for the Government and others – everyone has a role to play by offering the hand of friendship to neighbours and acquaintances. It’s not too much to ask, is it?