Archive for the 'Donald Trump' Category


Why I’ve taken the 5/1 on Trump not to visit the UK in 2017 and the latest PB cartoon

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

Ladbrokes have put up a market on Donald Trump no to visit the UK before the end of 2017. I took the 5/1 which I thought was a good price, especially in the light of William Hill offering 4/6 on Trump not to make a state visit in 2017, William Hill are offering 11/10 that a state visit will take place. Whilst the terms aren’t quite the same, I’m prepared to stake money on the 5/1 for the following reasons.

The Sunday Times are reporting the state visit will take place in either June or October*

Donald Trump is engaged in an extraordinary diplomatic row with the Prince of Wales over climate change that threatens to disrupt his state visit to the UK.

The new president is reluctant to meet the prince when he comes to Britain in June because of their violently divergent views on global warming.

Members of Trump’s inner circle have warned officials and ministers that it would be counterproductive for Charles to “lecture” Trump on green issues and that he will “erupt” if pushed. They want the younger princes, William and Harry, to greet the president instead. Royal aides insist that he should meet Trump.

Senior government officials now believe Charles is one of the most serious “risk factors” for the visit.

Then there’s this where shortly after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, Trump talked about having coitus with her in crude terms and when topless pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge were published Trump tweeted this

Whilst Her Majesty has hosted many unsavoury people for the good of the country, what makes me think the visit won’t take place is the expected protests against Trump. If there’s one thing the inauguration proved is that Trump is very sensitive to public protests which leads to him and his team to deny the scale of the protests with bullshit alternative facts. He might decided to delay or cancel his visit to avoid a major public relations disaster, with The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh in their 90s and scaling back their commitments there’s an obvious way to postpone the visit when Trump is less polarising.


*A Downing Street source suggested that if that was the case, Trump could also be invited to address the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, after May spoke to the Republican congressional leadership last week. If that’s the case, I’ll definitely be missing this year’s Tory conference this year, assuming Trump wont issue an Executive Order banning people who are Muslims from attending the Tory conference, my experiences of dealing with the protesters at the Tory conference in 2015 doesn’t fill me to the brim with girlish glee, but does Mrs May really want to be so deeply associated with Mr Trump?


Angels and Fools. Cyclefree on Trump’s latest Executive Order

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”  Well, to judge by the commentary over the last 48 hours Trump is a fool – and a chaotic and illiberal one to boot.  Whatever the many issues with his latest Executive Order, it could just as easily be said that only a fool would rush in to opine.  But at the risk of looking foolish, one criticism of the Trump approach is that it looks at the issue from the wrong end.  The risk of terrorism is not the primary problem and, paradoxically, a policy which appears rather crudely to discriminate on the basis of religion / birth place lacks effective discrimination, if its stated purpose really were to minimise the risk of terror (why no ban on Saudi nationals, for instance?  Saudis were, after all, rather more prominent in the most deadly act of terror in the US than Syrians.)

So here are three factors worth thinking about.

i) Credal cultures sit uneasily with secular democracies.  If you think that a polity, that your right to be a citizen, should be determined by membership of a particular creed, it is hard to square this with a democracy.  Even harder if you believe that a country’s laws should be determined by the rules of a particular God.  How can laws be democratically changed as a result of peoples’s votes if laws enact the will of God?  Surely only God (or His earthly representatives) can do so?

And where is your one person-one vote democracy then?  And why should members of a minority religion obey laws based on a religion they don’t share, may even think profoundly mistaken or, at worst, abhor?  Note that this is not just an issue associated with Islam.  A look at our own history: (both European and American) provides countless examples of such conflicts (Becket and Henry II, the Puritans fleeing to the American colonies, Britain’s treatment of Catholics, the Huguenots and the Treaty of Nantes) and the varying solutions adopted, some of them very bloody indeed.

Our current solution has been the adoption of secularism and a belief that religion is for the private rather than the public sphere.  But that solution does not work easily – or indeed at all – if the religion does not wish to be confined to the private sphere, indeed does not recognise the difference.  And that is a problem which the presence of significant Islamic communities has brought Europe: the demand for sharia law (a legal system which it is worth saying was declared as long ago as 2003 to be incompatible with the principles of the ECHR) is one such example of this conflict.

ii) Much has been made of the principle of toleration. But toleration of the different, the eccentric, the unusual, the minority comes from self-confidence.  And it requires an implicit understanding by all, not just the majority, that all are fundamentally part of the same wider group, share at some level similar or, at least, compatible, basic values and that toleration is reciprocal.

If those are missing, then toleration of those who are actively hostile to those values (and we need to accept that some groups do despise Western liberalism) is not so much toleration as feeble-minded and dangerous appeasement.  The different stranger is not seen as a threat to a group confident in its own values and strength, willing to be open to the outsider and clear about the implicit terms of its hospitality.  But sometimes the outsider is a threat and tolerating those who are or may be a threat is a weakness, a dangerous one.  Fundamentalist Islam does pose a threat to Western liberal democracies.  Pretending that this is not so is foolish.

iii) Secular societies find it hard to understand how important religion is to believers and to those for whom religion is part of their culture, even if they are not believers or only intermittent ones. At a time when identities of all types are given an elevated importance in political debate, it is curious how religious identity is so often dismissed.  It is dismissed because, having largely abandoned religion (other than as a ritual for ceremonies) we have little understanding of why it matters to others and little language in common.

It seen as an archaic curiosity, a historical remnant from less enlightened times, something which people will grow out of and, if they don’t, fundamentally the same as our own rather etiolated national religion.  But Islam is not just some exotic version of the CoE.  To think of it thus, to assume that Muslims in Western societies will somehow abandon their religion over time as they realise how silly it is, is condescending and insulting to those for whom their faith matters.  Nor is it inevitable that Islam will go through the same challenge and development as happened over centuries to Christianity.

Some consequences of this:-

  1. We have no effective language for debating sensibly these issues and thinking about possible solutions. The challenges which religious extremism pose to liberal secular societies cannot be addressed by ritual chanting of “diversity”  and similar mantras.  If we do not find such a language it will be the extremists who will set the terms of debate.  A society confident in its own values should not – would not – permit this.
  2. It has led to a focus on visible symbols – burqas, burkinis, halal meat, minarets in Switzerland etc – as a substitute for a real debate about how whether societies should welcome large groups of people from very different, strongly credal cultures and, if so, in what numbers and what the expectations/requirements of them (and the host society) should be.
  3. Terrorism is seen as the threat. But the solutions to terrorism are not necessarily the same as those needed for successful integration of minority cultures/religions.  And the risk is that the debate can get sidelined wrongly into a “Muslims are/are not terrorists” meme, both offensive and pointless.  Furthermore, this ignores the challenges we would still face even if there were no terrorism e.g to our concept of freedom of speech from those who think that limits should be placed on how one discusses their God.
  4. It results in ad hominem policy-making: bans on Syrians or Iranians, failing to discriminate between those who are a risk (ISIS sleeper agents vs Iranian refugees from the Ayatollahs) or, more shamefully, attacks on individual Muslims.

Critically, a policy such as Trump’s latest provides so much basis for criticism – that it may be unconstitutional, that it may well be ineffective, that it is illiberal, that it is immoral, that it will dismay America’s friends and embolden her enemies, that it could be counter-productive by providing another reason for the young to be recruited to violence, that it stands in sharp contrast to the best of American values – that what risks being lost is any chance to have a thoughtful and intelligent discussion about this most sensitive of topics.  The challenges which the growth of Islamic communities in the West pose to Western societies, particularly a time when Islam is and has been since at least 1979 subject to extreme and fundamentalist winds of change, will still be there long after Trump’s Executive Order has been modified or overturned. 



Trump’s net Gallup approval ratings drops 8 points in first week.

Saturday, January 28th, 2017

See full report on the latest ratings here.

The Gallup picture is in broad alignment with a Quinnipiac survey which found 44% disapproving to 36% approving.

These are quite remarkable figures. New Presidents usually enjoy a polling honeymoon.

Mike Smithson


How Mr. Trump could be booted out quickly without impeachment

Friday, January 27th, 2017

A good guide for Trump exit year punters

So far quite a few bookies have got markets up on which year Trump will cease to be President. The options range from this year, 2017, until January 2025 which is when he would leave the White House after securing and serviing a second full term.

But he’s made enough waves in his first few days for consideration to be given to the betting possibilities of him going earlier. These are the William Hill latest odds.

Anybody betting in these markets needs to consider the ways that could cause an earlier exit. Firstly there’s his health and we must remember that he’s 70 years old. Secondly there the possibility of impeachment but as we saw during the Clinton second term that’s offers little certainty.

He could, of course, fail to win the 2020 White House race in which case his exit year would be 2021.

But what about other routes? The above video made by Keith Olbermann is a good explanation of another constitutional way of forcing him to step down early. If that route was to be followed it would be driven by the politics at the time. Like all incoming Presidents Trump’s first really big electoral test will be mid-terms. These come round in November 2018,. If enough Republicans in the House and the Senate consider that he’s a threat to their political careers then something like the above process might happen.

At the moment I am biding my time and am not betting.

Mike Smithson


A cartoon ahead of tomorrow’s historic Trump-May meeting in the US and tonight’s Local By-Election Preview

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

Kilmarnock East and Hurlford on East Ayrshire caused by the death of the sitting Scottish National Party member
Result of council at last election (2012): Scottish National Party 15, Labour 14, Conservatives 2, Independent 1 (No Overall Control, Scottish National Party short by 2)
Result of ward at last election (2012) : Emboldened denotes elected
Scottish National Party 944, 1,126 (47%)
Labour 1,054, 984 (46%)
Conservative 326 (7%)
EU Referendum Result (2016): REMAIN 33,891 (59%) LEAVE 23,942 (41%) on a turnout of 63%
Candidates duly nominated: Fiona Campbell (SNP), Jon Herd (Con), Stephen McNamara (Scottish Libertarian Party), Dave Meecham (Lab)
Weather at the close of polls: Cloudy, but dry 0°C
Estimate: Scottish National Party HOLD

Compiled by Harry Hayfield


This YouGov US polling says an awful lot about current US politics and its worrying

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017


Trump’s New American Revolution

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

He can’t govern in slogans but they’ll take him a long way

Inaugurations set the tone for a presidency and Trump undoubtedly set his yesterday: life will be different – for DC, for Europe, for China and for the world. In an extraordinarily pugnacious address, which might have been lifted direct from his campaign rallies, Trump served notice that the Old Order is dead as far as he is concerned. There will be no more Beltway politics, benefitting lobbyists and politicians at the expense of the public; no more Pax Americana, underwriting the global order.

Whether he can deliver on that is another matter. That he and the Washington elite kept the common folk waiting for over half an hour at the inaugural parade while they lunched was hardly a good pointer. His speech proclaimed that “we will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action, constantly complaining, but never doing anything about it. The time for empty talk is over.” Yet the speech was just platitudes and slogans, and a litany of complaints about the state of the country without any detail on how to address them. By his own measure, he fell short.

Trump has however kept surprising pundits and commentators with his capacity to succeed by (or despite) doing the unexpected and unorthodox. We’re in that place again. He is relying on the people that he berated in his inaugural to pass his legislation and budgets – and relying on the lobbyists and donors who might feel differently not providing an equal counterweight.

One might expect that someone who really has little support in DC, who has no political experience and who doesn’t respect diplomatic niceties (whether domestic or foreign) to fail in delivering anything that congress doesn’t want. I wouldn’t be so sure.

Trump has three main cards he can play. The first is the simple fact of his election. It might be a weak mandate but it’s a mandate all the same. The establishment lost and for the time being, that means his opponents can’t be entirely sure that they’re on solid ground going against him. Secondly, he has initiative. He has set out his new direction for America and beyond and while others can respond, he’ll be setting the terms of debate.

But thirdly and most importantly, his America First platform will be difficult to argue against without sounding unpatriotic, and patriotism, while the last refuge of a scoundrel, is also the first claim of a politician – and in particular, an American politician. No matter that ‘America First’ as a slogan hardly has an unsullied past; no matter that the practical objections of limiting trade or building walls are evident to those prepared to think. Trump cannot fail politically now unless congress blocks him and congress has already made and won the case as to why America First is wrong – and that will be extremely hard.

Of course, Trump could fail elsewhere. His businesses give ample scope for conflicts of interest and his style of management is not one that is well suited to the office he now holds. He is without many friends internationally and those he has are in it solely for what they can get (which is not without irony).

That foreign policy marks the biggest shift in priorities. The US is heading back towards isolationism, though Trump’s comments about fighting extremist Islam run counter to the general drift. All the same, the TPP is out, NAFTA may be out, co-operation on climate change is out – and NATO might well be out too. If radical Islam is the US’s number one perceived threat then the Kremlin is an ally rather than an opponent, while the European states are fighting the wrong war with someone else’s – his – soldiers. But Europe is rapidly becoming a backwater to the US’s strategic considerations. If radical Islam is the number one threat then China is number two. Again, Russia is a potential ally and Europe is of little consequence.

That shift in foreign priorities is unlikely to be unpopular in principle. In practice, ‘bringing jobs home’ is likely to be rather harder to achieve and putting up trade barriers will probably be counterproductive. But when emotions are running high, short-term politics trumps longer-term economics in decision-making.

However, as populists throughout the ages have discovered, the price of neglecting longer-term economic considerations will have to be paid eventually. And turning away from the industries of the 21st century in favour of those of the 19th and 20th is neglecting them. Regulations might bring cost but they also stimulate innovation.

For that reason, I expect Trump to lose in 2020. By then, the America First campaign is likely to have run out of steam and he’ll find it harder to hide. It’s rare for a party to hold the White House for a single term (Carter was the only example in the 20th century), but Trump is exceptional. He only just won this year against a very weak Democrat opponent and has set himself huge targets. I think he’ll get a longer run than many expect but will ultimately fail and against a stronger Democrat – there must be a moderate, sensible, successful governor thinking of having a go, surely? – will lose.

But until then, it’s going to be a hell of a ride.

David Herdson


After a dramatic and historic day the world has changed and we have yet to fully appreciate what the Trump presidency means

Friday, January 20th, 2017

Following such an extraordinary day it is very hard to fully assimilate what we have seen and heard in Washington. Certainly the new President has given strong indications about his direction of travel and that is going to have huge implications in many different parts of the world including the UK and Europe.

This was an inauguration speech like no other which very much reflects the  individual personality of the new President.

At the same time it was quite moving seeing one administration and President being replaced by another one as a result solely of what has happened at the ballot box and and as a believer in democracy I find that a very good thing to observe.

One sure thing is that the new President speech today should have taken nobody by surprise. This was exactly the rhetoric and things that he has used consistently during the 18 month long election campaign that finished in November.

Mike Smithson