Donald Trump en route to London, December 2019. Photo: Flickr/ Shealah Craighead Donald Trump en route to London, December 2019. Photo: Flickr/ Shealah Craighead

Lindsey German on the blunderbuss waiting to happen and national security

Donald Trump had a hard time at his London press conference yesterday – not because of searching questions but because he had taken a vow of silence in the interests of his friend Boris Johnson. Well, almost. He couldn’t resist saying that he thought Boris Johnson would do a good job, which is endorsing one candidate in the election. But he was forced to remain bland and neutral on questions where we know he has very strong opinions. So, he had nothing to say about Jeremy Corbyn and antisemitism, nothing to say on terrorism, nothing to say on Prince Andrew – who he didn’t even know.

When it came to the NHS and any potential trade deal which would cost us all millions more in drugs and fully open it up to private medicine, Trump was in full ‘nothing to do with me’ mode. He hadn’t really heard of the NHS – and anyway wanted nothing to do with it. He wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole.

It is doubtful that Trump can contain his bile for the whole of his visit – indeed he has already laid into French President Macron for his remarks about NATO being brain dead. But he has definitely been told both by his own advisers and by the fearful Tories that any intervention from him is likely to bolster Jeremy Corbyn.

Trump remains very unpopular in Britain and the latest controversy over him is the threats to the NHS triggered by a US trade deal. No one believes Trump, Johnson or Raab when they claim that this is an invention of Labour. The documents released by Jeremy Corbyn last week, and everything we know anecdotally about the projected deal, suggest the complete opposite. We know that many Tories favour NHS privatisation, and indeed several cabinet members, while in opposition, contributed to a book which called for it. Add to this the low reputation for truthfulness of both Trump and Johnson and we are right to fear a Tory government headed by the pound shop Trump.

More generally the nervousness over Trump and the NATO summit demonstrate that the Tories are very uncertain about their lead in the polls, which is slipping as the campaign goes on. Put bluntly, the more people see of Johnson the more they dislike him, whereas for Corbyn exposure to election campaigning only helps him and his ratings are going up – albeit from a very low base following four years of constant denigration by the press and his political opponents.

It is still impossible to call the election because so much depends on specific seats. I’m hoping very much that the Lib Dems fall much further thus making it harder for the Tories to take seats from Labour. Given Jo Swinson’s latest declarations that the Lib Dems will not support nationalisation of any industry, it’s even clearer that a vote for her is a Tory vote.

This uncertainty is why keeping Donald Trump quiet is so important to Tory strategy.

Whose security? Whose threat?

Sure enough, as the election gets closer, we are hearing more about Jeremy Corbyn as a security threat. In yesterday’s Times, the former heads of the army, navy and air force say NATO is being undermined by those who ‘seek to diminish’ its achievements. They accuse Corbyn of playing ‘fast and loose’ with Britain’s security.

This is a fairly brazen electoral intervention again on the Tories’ side and will undoubtedly have been approved by serving generals who cannot be quite so blatant. It is also déjà vu. Most Labour leaders have faced the same accusation of being a security threat, including Attlee in 1945 and Wilson in 1964 – though not Blair in 1997 (wonder why?).

It points to the role of the military and security forces in British politics and their repeated at best contempt and at worst active opposition to democratic politics.

Johnson made the same claim in a long interview with Tom Newton Dunn in the Sun. There is no threat to national security from Corbyn – but there is a threat to the militarism and gung-ho approach to intervention which is so much part of Britain’s politics. Britain would actually be a much safer place without nuclear weapons and with more money directed towards examining and dealing with the causes of terrorism, combatting cybercrime and protecting against climate change.

Somehow don’t think this is what the admirals and generals have in mind.

Lindsey German

As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.

Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.