Donald Trump says the UK likes him a lot. We don’t. He is an unwelcome visitor
The first sitting president of the United States to visit Britain arrived here 100 years ago. President Woodrow Wilson came to Britain in 1918 on his way to the Versailles peace conference following the first world war. He came with the most noble of objectives: to help make peace in war-ravaged Europe and to lead the construction of a liberal international order based on laws and rights. Although the global order he was decisive in establishing was rejected at home and later challenged to within an inch of its life by fascism, it survived and was rebuilt more strongly. We are all the beneficiaries.
The contrast between that first presidential visit and the visit of Donald Trump a century later could not be more eloquent of the changing global role of the United States. Mr Trump does not come with a message of peace, as Wilson did, but with messages of conflict and disruption. He arrives not as the optimistic upholder of an international order but as its casual potential destroyer. Where Wilson spoke during his visit of his wish to make right and justice the “controlling force of the world”, Mr Trump arrives in 2018 as the vengeful tribune of might and injustice.
During his 1918 stay, Wilson made a point of travelling to his mother’s birthplace in Carlisle. He also went to Manchester, where he was met by cheering crowds, received the freedom of the city, addressed a lunch in the Midland Hotel, spoke at a public meeting in the Free Trade Hall – and even invited CP Scott, editor and owner of the Manchester Guardian, for an hour’s discussion, a scoop that caused consternation in the US press. It is a sign of changing times that the White House in 1918 could assure Scott that the president “relied on the Guardian’s wholehearted support”.