President Donald Trump will take a trip to Great Britain for a NATO summit this week and pretty much everyone expects him to comment on the upcoming election. This despite a request from Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday to demure.
“What we don’t do traditionally as loving allies and friends, what we don’t do traditionally, is get involved in each other’s election campaigns,” Johnson said to LBC radio on Friday. “The best when you have close friends and allies like the U.S. and the UK is for neither side to get involved in each other’s election.”
The White House noted Trump was aware of Johnson’s request and recognized it would not be wise to get involved in this month’s election, even though the President likes the PM. Trump has meetings planned with a variety of world leaders, including UK officials, although a gathering with Johnson may or may not happen. Scheduling and all that.
Will Trump comment on the voting? That has yet to be figured out despite the previous comments from his Administration. Trump did decry Leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn in October during an interview with Brexit Party Leader Nigel Farage on LBC.
“I have great relationships with many of the leaders, including Boris,” Trump commented while also heaping platitudes on Farage. “And I know that you and him will end up doing something that could be terrific if you and he get together, as, you know, unstoppable force. And Corbyn would be so bad for your country. He’d be so bad. He’d take you in such a bad way. He’d take you into such bad places.”
The comments are not necessarily as bad as the ones made by former President Barack Obama in 2016 during the run-up to the Brexit referendum. Obama threatened “the UK is going to be in the back of the queue,” when discussing a potential US-UK trade deal. The edict was Election Interference 101 although it is anyone’s guess if it threw the Brexit election towards the Leavers. It didn’t help, most likely, because it came off as bullying.
Trump’s derision of Corbyn was not necessarily bullying but the statement Corbyn wasn’t invited to a state dinner featuring the President and Great Britain leaders lacked wisdom. It also only gave fuel to Corbyn’s campaign since the Labour leader decided to use Trump’s endorsement as proof Johnson is in cahoots with Trump. There are also suggestions Trump, Johnson, and Farage are in some sort of alliance over Britain’s National Health System. No proof exists, mind you, and even the trade discussions between the Trump and Johnson administrations appear to be more of a setting of the ground rules than anything else.
“Labour is saying that one of the most beloved institutions is being threatened by the most hated figure on the public stage at the moment,” University of Nottingham Political History Professor Stephen Fielding told The Washington Post. “It’s very clever.”
Clever enough to force Johnson to vow no NHS privatization was coming and The Washington Post reported he would end any talks if Trump put NHS on the table. These are politicians, however, so any comment deserves a heavy dosing of salt before being taken as gospel. It does show Corbyn’s attack had enough legs to warrant a response from the opposition.
It would not be surprising if Johnson eschews a one-on-one meeting with Trump to avoid any early December hiccups in his re-election push. His request for Trump to not make any public comments about the election are also wise. Trump’s popularity is low in Great Britain and could be an anchor on the Conservative Party’s chances.
What will happen next week during Trump’s visit? It is honestly anyone’s guess. The President will probably do his best to avoid any sort of comment on the election although he could be baited into it. Trump’s desire for Johnson to remain as Prime Minister is well known although he’d probably be happier if Farage came out on top. The Conservatives, at the moment, are in the driver’s seat but there’s still plenty of time for them to screw this up. Trump would be wise to avoid speaking on the election and stick to NATO business.