British politicians were trapped in the carapace of their own humbug toward Donald Trump’s unexpected victory, leaving Nigel Farage to make his move…. 

Since we have arrived at the end of the week and Donald Trump hasn’t yet blown up the world, it may be time to start looking out for articles proclaiming that, once again, the experts have got it wrong. Then again, it is still early days, and, strictly speaking, The Donald isn’t yet the President. We have to wait until after his inauguration in January – a ceremony at which, incidentally, the face of President Obama sitting on the podium is going to be a joy to behold – before they let him near the button. By then, we are assured by the incurably naieve, he will have surrounded himself with enough “good people” who can tell him when and when not he can push it and, hopefully, to hit him on the back of the head if he doesn’t listen.

In Britain, the political class divided sharply in reaction to Mr Trump’s victory, between those who were, in the words of Margaret Beckett, a former foreign secretary, horrified and terrified and Nigel Farage. Theresa May, who has a habit of keeping her political views like her shoes, concealed in a cupboard until the most expedient ones can be displayed for maximum effect, congratulated the President-elect while studiously avoiding the question of whether she considered him to be fit to hold the office. Mr Trump shouldn’t necessarily consider this a slight. It is evident that Mrs May doubts whether her own foreign secretary is fit to hold the office, but that didn’t stop her appointing him in the first place.

Some commentators contrasted Mrs May’s approach to Trump unfavourably with that of Angela Merkel, who gave the President-elect a little Germanic lecture in values. The world’s other notable female leader – one refers, of course, to Nicola Sturgeon – more or less told Mr Trump that if he comes anywhere near her she will punch him in the mouth. The President-elect, who is unable to tell Scotland from a golf course (it is a not unuseful interpretation),  would seem unlikely to want to risk it.

But it was Mr Farage who caught the attention. There he was, glowing like plutonium in the television studios on that Wednesday dawn, as the final results from Michigan limped in, and the weary and dejected Maitlises and Pestons limped off. There he was, soaring across the Atlantic as Britain’s self appointed envoy to the new court. The Honorary Consul had taken flight.

Before long Mr Trump and Mr Farage were pictured side by side, standing inside what looked to be Tutankhamun’s tomb, but was presumably part of the Trump Tower. At the same time stories started to surface – there is no evidence to suggest that the source of these stories was anyone other than their subject and beneficiary – that Mr Farage would be the go-between between the Trump administration and Mrs May’s government. Since Mr Trump does not have an administration (harsh critics might aver that Mrs May doesn’t really have a government), it may be an unfair ask for anyone to form a relationship with it. This didn’t matter because the media were by now growing weary of publicising celebrity Tweets threatening suicide and promising emigration, and needed a new angle. Liam Fox, the Daily Telegraph reported, would consult Mr Farage before beginning one of his own ersatz trade negotiations, but Downing Street was quick to tell him to forget it. Like the other Brexiteers, Dr Fox is kept on an exceedingly short leash, terminating in the sort of collar familiar to one of Michael Heseltine’s dogs. Mrs May only has to twist it for Dr Fox to go limp.

Fiddling with the lead, Mrs May hung around for the best part of a day, waiting for The Donald to call. That she was ninth (or eleventh according to some reports) on his list of world leaders was accorded immense geopolitical significance and we were advised by smug commentators that Britain had clearly fallen down the world pecking-order behind Ireland, Egypt and South Korea. By the same token, however, we were ahead of Germany, France or even Russia, although presumably Mr Trump has no need to call his mate Vlad since the pair had been Snapchatting each other since CNN called Pennsylvania for the GOP. Trump and May talked about the special relationship, about Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and about Brexit. The prime minister may have advised the President-elect that in his huge proposed programme of infrastructure spending it would be a good idea to build himself a beautiful telephone exchange.

Otherwise, politics in Britain hung frozen across the week, as politicians took time to absorb the news and reach the most peaceful accommodation they could with the violence of their own cant. The Liberal Democrats took the opportunity to break cover and pledge that they would not back the triggering of Article 50 unless there were a specific pledge to hold a second referendum. Eighty MPs are aligned with this position – a coalition-in-denial of Lib Dems, the SNP and Labour rebels. Officially Labour and Jeremy Corbyn have said that they will not stand in the way of triggering the Article, although loyalty to Mr Corbyn’s point of view is not currently Labour’s predominant characteristic. The Labour leader is nevertheless feeling surprisingly chipper. He has spotted in the Trump victory the essence of a populist revolt against the establishment that he believes will be replicated in Britain and carry him to power. What he may not have noticed is that populist Donald has one thing that populist Jeremy lacks, which is popularity.

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