Sweet-talk­ing Don had the husky drawl of a lounge bar se­ducer

Daily Mail - - The Pomp And The Pygmy - Quentin Letts ad­mires the Pres­i­dent’s charm of­fen­sive on the cur­rent chate­laine of Che­quers

FEW geo-po­lit­i­cal news events hap­pen in the open coun­try­side, to the moo­ing of cows, the brzzzzt of horse­flies and the nearby sway­ing of blue-headed cat­mint.

Che­quers, Buck­ing­hamshire, built in the reign of El­iz­a­beth I, is a bu­colic spot but yesterday its ru­ral bower had six whack­ing great Amer­i­can he­li­copters in its park­land, a small army of se­cu­rity guys and a whirly­bird US pres­i­dent in the walled gar­den.

‘Last night,’ drawled Don­ald J. Trump, with the husky tone of lounge-bar se­duc­ers down the ages, ‘I got to know the Prime Min­is­ter bet­ter.’ A phrase open to mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion! Cough, I BEG your par­don, sir?

Mr Trump con­tin­ued that he had been ‘em­bar­rassed for the rest of the ta­ble’ when they dined at Blen­heim Palace on Thurs­day evening. Theresa was ‘an in­cred­i­ble woman’, he gasped.

Mind you, he did also call her ‘a peo­ple per­son’. That’s a first.

His sweet-talk­ing of the cur­rent chate­laine of Che­quers – the house from which Churchill tele­phoned Pres­i­dent Eisen­hower af­ter Pearl Har­bor – was all meant in­no­cently.

He and Mrs May had been so gripped by their Thurs­day-night con­ver­sa­tion about global events and pol­icy pri­or­i­ties that they had not had time for small-talk with the rest of the throng, claimed Mr Trump.

Between Thurs­day sun­set and yesterday just af­ter lunch, when Pres­i­dent and Prime Min­is­ter came hand-in-hand down the red-brick steps to­wards their gar­den lecterns, some­thing awk­ward had hap­pened.

Mrs May’s gush­ing ad­mirer, Don­ald, had vouch­safed an in­ter­view to The Sun news­pa­per in which he said her pro­posed Brexit cave-in to Brus­sels was a stinker likely to pre­vent an An­glo-Amer­i­can trade deal. Oh dear. That was the op­po­site of what the Europhiles at 10 Down­ing Street had been claim­ing.

The Pres­i­dent also told The Sun that he thought Mrs May’s pesky for­mer for­eign sec­re­tary, Boris John­son, would make a ter­rific prime min­is­ter. Dou­bly awk­ward. When he yesterday re­peated that view, declar­ing Boris to be a friend and a great guy, Mrs May’s face stiff­ened as though in­jected with starch. An os­trich sensing the nib­ble of wee­vils at its hind quar­ters.

But the event could have gone a great deal worse for her. By her stan­dards she was rea­son­ably suc­cinct and un­war­bly and he coated her with layer af­ter layer of com­pli­ment.

Mr Trump dis­closed that the first thing he had done yesterday morn­ing, when he saw Mrs May, was apol­o­gise to her for that in­ter­view.

She had al­legedly brushed aside the mat­ter, telling him it was only to be ex­pected if you talked to those dread­ful news­pa­per types. Old­est trick in the book. You let rip a silent but deadly and you im­me­di­ately kick the dog.

Mr Trump tried claim­ing that The Sun had mis­re­ported him – ‘fake news’ he blus­tered – but it was rea­son­ably clear that was not the case.

From what one can glean, it was per­fectly le­git­i­mate news but it so hap­pened that it had bro­ken that beau­ti­ful lit­tle cherry of a courtship he and Theresa had been stroking the pre­vi­ous night un­der the Blen­heim moon.

Mr Trump’s con­tri­tion yesterday was diplo­matic. He smeared it on, thick as Branston Pickle near the end of your Plough­man’s Lunch. But this re­cal­i­bra­tion of his po­si­tion was, it­self, less than the full story.

He plainly still thought Mrs May’s Brexit plans were pa­thet­i­cally weak. With rare sel­f­re­straint he may not have quite put it like that yesterday but his in­ter­view had done the work.

Yesterday he sim­ply claimed, with a shrug, that he did not know what was hap­pen­ing with Brexit (join the club, mate). ‘Per­haps’ the UK would be leav­ing the EU – he prac­ti­cally threw up his hands with de­spair at this point – but ‘what­ever you do is okay with me’.

It’s your funeral, Theresa. He just wanted to be sure that a post-Brexit Bri­tain could do a de­cent trade deal with Amer­ica. ‘Just make sure we can trade – that’s all that mat­ters. Make sure we can trade and don’t have any re­stric­tions.’

He surely had a point. If Mrs May would only re­mould her dread­ful White Pa­per to re­move those re­stric­tions, and make a cou­ple more shim­mies to­wards the hard-Brexit side, it would do her some good with her back­bench MPs and, maybe, with her dis­en­chanted party mem­ber­ship.

Mr Trump held out the prospect of US- UK trade be­ing ‘dou­ble, triple, quadru­ple’ its cur­rent lev­els if we got out of the EU prop­erly. Are we re­ally pre­pared to squan­der such prospects just be­cause Do­minic Grieve and Anna Soubry are be­ing dif­fi­cult?

re­call­ing Barack Obama’s ‘get to the back of the queue’ threat to Bri­tain in 2016, Mr Trump said: ‘I thought that was a ter­ri­ble thing to say.’ Un­like Mr

Obama, he said ‘ line’ and not ‘queue’.

Though he was re­luc­tant to crit­i­cise the EU on our be­half, he was jaun­tily happy to do so him­self. ‘The Euro­pean Union has sys­tem­at­i­cally taken ad­van­tage of the US,’ he said. ‘ It’s a dis­grace. They treat the US hor­ri­bly. If it doesn’t change, they’re go­ing to have to pay a very big price.’ Dur­ing ques­tions he was asked how he would han­dle ne­go­ti­a­tions with Michel Barnier and Co. Mrs May started wob­bling her head.

This is her cus­tom­ary re­ac­tion when she senses im­pend­ing dis­as­ter. The head moves ever so slightly from side to side, like a slow­ing plate on a cir­cus trick­ster’s stick.

Mr Trump replied that he had of­fered Mrs May a ‘sug­ges­tion’ on how to ap­proach her ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Euro­pean Union but she had not taken it. ‘I think maybe she found it too bru­tal.’

We were not told what the sug­ges­tion was. Whack the Europeans with pre- emp­tive trade tar­iffs? Ban im­ports of Cham­pagne? Ex­pel all Euro­pean Com­mis­sion diplo­mats and force the French to take in Lord Ado­nis and A.C. Grayling as refugees? Who knows?

But I bet it would have se­cured a bet­ter po­si­tion than her use­less munchkins Olly Rob­bins and Gavin Bar­well have so far man­aged.

Is he a brag­gart? Of course. He kept say­ing how great he was, what a great job he was do­ing, prais­ing him­self al­most more than he praised his ‘in­cred­i­ble’ host­ess.

Does he blus­ter? You bet. Is he a bully? His treat­ment of a poor re­porter from CNN. ‘Fake news!’ he said lan­guidly, re­fus­ing to take the man’s ques­tion.

But it is the blus­ter of a real es­tate deal-maker, of a man who, as he tours the world, stirs up as much dust as his he­li­copter’s blades. It is vul­gar but it is also, af­ter decades of po­lit­i­cal bland­ness, un­de­ni­ably elec­tri­fy­ing.

As Marine One’s en­gines whined and its ro­tors turned and the big bird rose from Che­quers’ sun­bleached grass, it was hard not to feel a cer­tain sense of loss.

Firm friends? The two lead­ers at Che­quers yesterday. In­set, the Pres­i­dent gives one of his in­fa­mous white-knuckle hand­shakes

... and he praises her as an ‘in­cred­i­ble woman’

... be­fore she helps him down the steps

Touchy feely: Mr Trump squeezes the PM PM’s s arm

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