Uh oh – Poor Theresa. You know that when Donald Trump, the most powerful man in the world, tells the media that you and he have a ‘very good relationship’, it means he doesn’t like you at all. It’s what he said about Theresa May this morning, just before he left for Europe. It’s also what he says about Justin Trudeau (‘good relationship’), Angela Merkel (‘really great relationship’), Mitch McConnell (‘relationship is very good’) and even Barack Obama (‘very good relationship’). In fact, in Trump-speak, ‘very good relationship’ means ‘I can’t stand him/her.’
Boris Johnson is a different matter. ‘Boris Johnson is a friend of mine,’ said the President this morning. ‘He has been very nice to me. Very supportive. Maybe we’ll speak to him when I get over there. I like Boris Johnson. I’ve always liked him.’ Trump and Boris clearly have an affinity which Theresa, bless her, can’t compete with. They are alpha males who love womanising and winging it through politics. They are both born New Yorkers who think life is funny.
Boris has often been accused of ‘brown nosing’ or sucking up to the 45th President of the United States. But then, in these febrile times, anyone who says anything about Donald Trump that isn’t condemnatory is accused of being an appeaser, or of ‘normalising fascism’.
In fact, Boris has been critical of President Trump, both when Trump was a candidate and as President. But it made perfect sense for him, as Foreign Secretary, to try to court the most powerful man in the world. He appears to have done a better job of that than the Prime Minister.
Boris realised that, with a character like Trump in the White House, conventional diplomacy mattered, but was not quite as important as Fox News and Twitter. So when Boris went to Washington in May, he appeared on Fox & Friends, one of Trump’s favourite news shows, to urge the America not to tear up the Iran deal. He failed there. But perhaps Trump saw his earlier appearance on Fox and Friends in November last year when he laid it on thick, saying the President was ‘one of the great huge global brands’ who was ‘penetrating corners of the global consciousness that I think few other presidents have ever done’.
Trump may have also noticed when Boris berated his predecessor as London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, for celebrating the fact the US Commander-in-Chief had cancelled his visit to Britain earlier this year. Boris – who Nick Clegg famously called ‘Trump with a thesaurus’ – described Khan as a ‘puffed-up pompous popinjay.’ You can bet the US President enjoyed that.
If that was all brown-nosing, it seems to have worked. President Trump is clearly in Boris’s Brexit corner, and he comes to Britain this week when the country is, as he says, in turmoil. As for Trump and May, well, they have a good relationship…