Insults and Trump land in UK

President exchanges angry tweets with London mayor Sadiq Khan

By Amit Roy in London
  • Published 4.06.19, 1:26 AM
  • Updated 4.06.19, 1:26 AM
  • 4 mins read
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Britain's Queen Elizabeth II speaks to US President Donald Trump, centre and first lady Melania as they view US memorabilia from the Royal Collection, at Buckingham Palace, London, Monday, June 3, 2019. (AP)

Britain honoured the office of the President of the United States of America rather than the individual occupying the post on the first day of Donald Trump’s three day state visit.

Treated as something of “a pariah President” by the Labour Opposition, he was whisked by Marine One to the US ambassador’s residence in London after he and the First Lady, Melania Trump, had landed at Stansted Airport early on Monday morning.

From Winfield House, Trump and other members of his family were again ferried by helicopter to Buckingham Palace where he was met by Prince Charles, formally received by the Queen and inspected a guard of honour — far away from protesters outside.

In the evening the Queen hosted a glittering banquet for him where she had personally inspected the place settings for 170 guests.

The dinner — the highlight of the visit — was boycotted by the Labour and Lib Dem leaders, Jeremy Corbyn and Sir Vince Cable, and other Opposition politicians.

Day one of the visit was taken up partly by pomp and circumstance, at which the British excel, and partly by an exchange of insults between Trump and the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

Trump was clearly irked by Sadiq’s article in The Observer on Sunday in which the mayor compared the language used by the US President to that of the “fascists of the 20th century”.

Sadiq said: “Viktor Orban in Hungary, Matteo Salvini in Italy, Marine Le Pen in France and Nigel Farage here in the UK are using the same divisive tropes of the fascists of the 20th century to garner support, but with new, sinister methods to deliver their message.”

“And they are gaining ground and winning power and influence in places that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.”

Even as Air Force One was coming to land at Stansted, the most powerful man in the world was busy tweeting: "@SadiqKhan, who by all accounts has done a terrible job as Mayor of London, has been foolishly ‘nasty’ to the visiting President of the United States, by far the most important ally of the United Kingdom. He is a stone cold loser who should focus on crime in London, not me.”

Spelling the mayor’s surname as “Kahn”, the President added: “...Kahn reminds me very much of our very dumb and incompetent Mayor of NYC, de Blasio, who has also done a terrible job — only half his height. In any event, I look forward to being a great friend to the United Kingdom, and am looking very much forward to my visit. Landing now.”

A spokesman for Sadiq hit back: “This is much more serious than childish insults which should be beneath the President of the United States.”

The foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who met Trump at the airport, ticked off Sadiq for showing “great courtesy”. This provoked a senior Labour MP, Yvette Cooper, to respond: “So appalled Theresa May has given this man a red carpeted platform to do this.

“Doesn’t help Britain to be lavishing pomp on a President so determined to be divisive, childish & destructive. Doesn’t help US or world to be gifting him a whole load of Royal photo ops to use next yr.”

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott added: “Ridiculous insults from Trump.”

Corbyn also weighed in: “Tomorrow’s protest against Donald Trump’s state visit is an opportunity to stand in solidarity with those he’s attacked in America, around the world and in our own country — including, just this morning, @SadiqKhan.”

At Winfield House, Trump did not relax for a couple of hours as he was meant to but instead watched CNN and issued more angry tweets: “Just arrived in the United Kingdom. The only problem is that @CNN is the primary source of news available from the US.

“After watching it for a short while, I turned it off. All negative & so much Fake News, very bad for US. Big ratings drop. Why doesn’t owner @ATT do something?”

Meanwhile, the Brexit leader Nigel Farage, who is regarded as sound politician by Trump, backed the President: “As Trump arrives in the UK for his 3-day visit, he comes offering a trade deal if we need one, but also American’s hand of friendship.

“As the democratically elected leader of the free world, we should extend to him a welcome that befits the status of his office & great country.”Meanwhile, inside the grounds of Buckingham, the Queen, who has lived through more than 110 state visits and see it all before during her 66-year reign, smiled warmly as she shook hands with Trump and Melania.

There was a 41-gun salute for him and another for the Queen.

Soldiers from the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery led 71 horses, pulling six First World War-era 13-pounder field guns, into place, to fire the 82 blank artillery rounds at 10-second intervals.

Speaking from Buckingham Palace, BBC North America editor Jon Sopel drew attention to the benefits Trump will see in meeting the royals.

He said: “Its 08:00 in the morning on the east coast of America, 07:00 central and 05:00 on the west coast. It’s breakfast time – people will be watching this.

All the American networks are carrying these pictures, they’ve all sent their news anchors over here to be part of this moment.

“The Royal Family cuts through the United States in a way that UK politics doesn’t, and Donald Trump knows this is good for business.”

But leading from the Hinduja residence overlooking The Mall, all the roads to Buckingham Palace were sealed off to traffic. The US President is in Britain but he is being kept away from the British people.

Labour MP Rupa Huq, who is Bangladeshi and is the elder sister of TV presenter Konnie Huq, tweeted that Londoners’ lives were being disrupted: “Cost of this to the public purse is in the millions. Surely better uses of our overstretched police.”

Meanwhile, senior Tories insisted that UK and the US must do everything to protect their “special relationship.”

Trump will meet Theresa May on Tuesday before she steps down as Prime Minister on June 7.