Alex Deane is Managing Director and Head of Public Affairs UK at FTI Consulting and a former aide to David Cameron. He writes here in a personal capacity.
Despite her strong predilection for state surveillance of – well – everything, I have a great deal of respect for the Home Secretary.
Theresa May is a true Parliamentarian – she actually makes her policy announcements on the floor of the House to which she was elected, where it can be challenged and in which she can be held to account, rather than in a hagiographic newspaper “interview” or on the sycophantic sofa of some TV talking head. She has held her remarkably challenging office for a magnificently long period of time, during an era of exceptional challenges in the portfolio she holds. She generally avoids squabbling in the party – and, when drawn into squabbles despite that, tends to win them.
That admiration should be kept in mind when I say that, in my view, even the merest flirting with the idea that the present front runner for the Republican nomination for the Presidency of the United States might not be admitted to this country is really quite extreme foolishness.
Donald Trump isn’t just leading in the primary race by a little – he’s leading by a lot. Naturally, this doesn’t mean that he will be president. Neither does it mean necessarily that he will be the Republican nominee. But it certainly means that he is of significant standing in that party, and slapping him around for point scoring purposes is to be left to the media pundits – Lord knows they do enough of it – rather than being taken up by the holders of the great offices of state.
After all, if he’s going to lose, it will be at the hands of the electorate and they don’t need any help from a Brit (many will remember the magnificently backfiring Ohio-focused super-sneering Guardian letter writing campaign during the 2004 presidential election – to which this might be thought to be the pumped up, petitioneering, officeholder involving 2.0 equivalent). If he’s going to win, then obviously slapping him around was a really bad idea. And by the way, not to invite a standard ConHome pet issue side-discussion in the comments about the state of the GOP, but they remain our sister party, too.
I appreciate that many people here (on this site, in this country, on this planet) do not like Donald Trump. But it is very difficult (indeed actually absurd) to argue that he’s “not conducive to the public good”, given the absence – say – of serious criminal convictions, and given the presence of all the investment he’s made here – unless the test of “public good” is actually “whether the public likes him”. In my view, neither our foreign relations positions nor our immigration decisions are best determined by petitions or popularity contests. Indeed, this recent bout of populism is quite out of kilter with Theresa May’s past record of steady and considered decision-making. Why, it’s almost as if another job might be in the back of her mind.
In recent times, and in one instance really quite publicly, the Home Secretary has been deprived of not one but all three of her closest advisers – Nick Timothy, Stephen Parkinson and Fiona Cunningham. Their loyalty was unquestionable and their expertise was unchallengeable. Had this praetorian guard of experienced and surefooted advisers been in place, one cannot help but wonder if this move might have been avoided.