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Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publishing, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.

I think it’s called the Law of Sod. Within a matter of minutes of having booked our flights to Washington DC to cover the Trump inaugural, it was announced that Theresa May’s big Brexit speech would be on Tuesday. At more or less exactly the time our plane is due to take off from Heathrow. Bugger.

So picture the scene. My producer, Jagruti, and I are in our seats when May starts speaking – each of us with an earpiece in one ear, watching her on the Sky News App, but each of us waiting for a flight attendant to tell us to stop because the plane is about to take off.

She a Remainer, I a Leaver. Me cheering from time to time; her grimacing. The plane starts to taxi to the runway. Still no instruction from the trolly dollies (female or male!). We roar down the runway, and we’re still listening to the Prime Minister waxing lyrical. We climb into the skies. And just as the Prime Minister ends her speech, the connection is lost. Serendipity.

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In many ways, May is proving to be a revelation. Her Brexit speech contained far more ‘meat’ than most commentators would have expected, and showed real leadership. Even if you don’t agree with her, it’s impossible to deny that she has shown balls – big, fat, hairy ones.

Excuse the image. She’s thrown down the gauntlet to her opponents, and challenged them to provide a realistic alternative. The Labour Party is all over the place with its Shadow Brexit Secretary saying one thing, its Shadow Foreign Secretary another, and its leader a third.

As I write this, we hear that Labour is now considering voting for triggering Article 50. At least the Liberal Democrats, bless them, have been consistent in their denial of what the majority actually voted for. It’s principle of sorts, I suppose.

However, in some ways, announcing we’re leaving the Single Market and also probably the customs union is merely a public recognition of the inevitable. If border control is the most important thing for the Government – and it’s been a consistent message that it is – then how could we stay within the Single Market?

And if we’re to negotiate our own trade agreements then leaving the customs union is also inevitable. This has all been clear for some time to those who bother to analyse these things properly, but again, no one in our liberal Remain establishment seemed able to join the dots. Well, they have done so now – and they’re horrified. It’s quite amusing, really.

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Much like the Remainers in Britain, it doesn’t take us long to work out that Washington is a city in denial. It’s one of the most liberal parts of the United States – and virtually everyone we talk to is clearly horrified at the prospect of a Trump White House. The inauguration is days away, but it’s as if the city has stuck its collective fingers in its ears and is shouting: ‘la la la, I can’t hear you”. A sort of grieving process is taking place.

Trump keeps saying it’s all going to be beautiful, but Washington is closing its ears to him. This is a city in which thousands of people rely on an incoming administration to give them a job as Assistant Secretary of State for this or that.

Many lifetime Republicans cannot bring themselves to serve Trump, although there are many exceptions. Some time ago, 50 leading Republicans signed a letter calling for Anyone but Trump. Since his win, 47 of them have put career over principle, and accepted jobs in his administration. Three have held out.

At the more junior levels, though, expediency may not be winning the day. People who’ve lived in Washington for 20 or 30 years are now considering moving back home and taking up alternative careers. This remains a city in shock.

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On Wednesday evening, I took my producer, who has never been to the States before, on a little tour of some of the memorials. Sadly, my favourite, the Lincoln Memorial was closed, so we drove on to the Jefferson Memorial. For those of you who have been there you will know what a majestic feel it has to it. She was bowled over. On our way out, we encountered a group of Trump-supporting Alabamans, most of whom were in their twenties. Out came our microphone, and I did some vox pops with them – and very entertaining it was too.

However, once you got past the soundbites of ‘making America great again’ and it’s all going to be ‘beautiful’, you could tell that voting Trump was an instinctive reaction against the way the country has been governed for not just the last eight years but much longer than that.

They really think Trump will be different because he’s beholden to no one. It didn’t seem to occur to them that in order to enact change, he’ll need Congress on side. Trump’s big problem is that there are now three parties in the US political game now: Democrats, Republicans and Trumpists. He is not really a Republican in any conventional sense, and I suspect that, before his first hundred days are up, people will have come to realise this.

As I finished my chat with my new friends from Alabama, one of the younger ones asked which soccer team I support. When I told him it was West Ham, he immediately launched into a riff about the evils of Dimitri Payet’s recent behaviour. If I didn’t know what globalisation meant before, that exchange really brought it home to me.

As they wandered off into the night one of the younger ones turned around and shouted: “Remember, Jesus loves you.” As if I could forget…

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As I write this, we’re now 22 hours away from the inauguration. Washington is about to go into lock down as streets are cut off and barriers erected. The whole public transport system will shut down. Getting around the city will be a nightmare.

Having said that, despite what the President-Elect seems to believe the crowds expected for the events of tomorrow are likely to be much smaller than usual. It’s a day when America will take a sharp turn, but only time will tell whether it’s a turn for the better or worse.

Even though I cannot stand Trump, the completely OTT reactions of his opponents makes me smile. In the words of the Payet song, “I just don’t think they understand.”

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I fly back to London on Saturday evening, arriving early Sunday morning. It’s going to be a rather morose journey, I suspect, as my mind turns from President Trump to my father, Garry Dale.

As some of you know, Dad died just before Christmas, and his funeral is on Monday. I did the eulogy at my mother’s funeral four years ago, but this time I’m doing a reading of poem I discovered on the internet called ‘They Buried a Farmer Today’. I have had to rewrite several lines to make it more appropriate, but I think the congregation will appreciate it. And I think my Dad would have done so, too.

42 comments for: Iain Dale: I find Washington in shock as I arrive for the new President’s inauguration

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