Donald Trump adds to the jollity of nations, and his press conferences are hugely entertaining. He drops massive news bombs, laughs, and whisks himself away. I defy anyone not to be entertained. In terms of epic oddness, his encounter with May today one was a notch or two down from last year’s at Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country residence. Still, he provided another masterclass in comic statesmanship.
Trump bends the world to his idea of reality, and it’s hilarious. He was able to repeat – once again – his conviction that he arrived in Turnberry, his golf course in Scotland, the day before the EU referendum. He didn’t. I was there. It was the day after. But one can be fairly sure Trump will go to his grave adamant that he came to Britain the day before Brexit, and predicted it would happen.
From a British perspective, the biggest flash point of the conference was his revelation that Jeremy Corbyn had sought an audience with him and he had turned the Labour opposition leader down.
Asked how he felt about being critiqued by Corbyn, Trump chose to interpret that as a question about Sadiq Khan, the London Mayor. When his questioner persisted, Trump said ‘I don’t know Jeremy Corbyn. He added that he sensed that Corbyn was ‘somewhat of a negative force…I don’t like critics as much as I respect people who get things done.’ Corbyn has confirmed that he did seek to ‘have a dialogue’ with the President. Given that Corbyn is famous for having a dialogue with terrorist groups such as the IRA and Hamas, it’s at least consistent that he would offer to talk to the enemy.
Oh, and Trump also suggested that he would ‘absolutely’ put the NHS up for grabs in a US-UK free trade deal – a throwaway remark that could cause British Brexit negotiators tremendous headaches in the coming months.
Trump capped it off by complimenting Theresa May. ‘She’s probably a better negotiator than I am…that deal is teed up…perhaps she won’t be given the credit that she deserves. But I think you deserve a lot credit. I really do.’
He also gave a little run down of the candidates who want to replace May. ‘I know Boris. I like him I’ve liked him for a long time. I think he’s doing a good job. I know Jeremy [pointing to Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary]. I think he’d do a good job. I don’t know Michael … [turning to Hunt] Do you think he would do a good job, Jeremy?’ It seems Trump has forgotten that Michael Gove, in his brief retreat from politics back to journalism after the EU referendum, interviewed him for the Times. Oh well, he is 72.
After that, he and May vanished from the stage: their last appearance together. It was quite touching. It was more funny.