One doubts very much that Donald Trump knows who Jeremy Corbyn is. So the British Labour Party leader’s decision to ‘snub’ the US president on his state visit to the UK in June won’t rupture the Special Relationship. However, it is quite rude.
‘Theresa May should not be rolling out the red carpet for a state visit to honor a president who rips up international treaties, backs climate change denial, and uses racist and misogynistic rhetoric,’ said Corbyn, as he confirmed that he would not attend the state banquet for the Commander-in-Chief of Britain’s greatest ally.
Corbyn’s stand is hardly a shock. He has promised before that, as Prime Minister, he would not invite Trump to Britain’s shores. ‘I think the prime minister’s got ample reasons to withhold the invitation if she wants to,’ he said, before Trump’s last visit to the UK. ‘We need to say very clearly to Donald Trump “We live in a multicultural society, we’re proud of it. Get over it and start living in one yourself”.’
Get over what? British politicians, vain creatures that they are, often struggle to understand how little they mean to American leaders. Even if Americans are well-disposed towards Britain — Trump certainly is — they can’t really be expected to follow British party politics too closely. Trump pays even less attention than most, despite his enthusiasm for ‘the Brexit’.
Trump knows and likes Boris Johnson and will no doubt see him when in London. His relationship with May has had quite a few difficult moments, but they at least pretend to get on for the cameras — even if their faces tell a different story. But he almost certainly couldn’t pick Jeremy Corbyn out of a line-up.
So what does Corbyn gain from ostentatiously refusing to see Trump? Well, it’s a big virtue-signal, obviously. Corbyn can claim to be refusing to dignify the — as Owen Jones would put it — racist, fascist, homophobic misogynist from the White House with a handshake. And his supporters will talk boastfully at the message their hero is sending to the enemy across the pond.
But if Trump doesn’t even realize, let alone care, what good does Corbyn’s gesture do?
This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website. Now listen to Freddy Gray and Dominic Green discussing Trump’s visit on the Americano podcast: