BY JAMIE FOSTER
Everyone, it would appear, needs an enemy to define themselves by. Sadiq Khan, as Mayor of London, needs an enemy befitting his dignity as leader of one of the world’s most important cities. He can’t really pick a fight with the leader of Aberystwyth Town Council. Khan would appear a bully, willing to trade blows beneath his weight class. He also can’t be seen to increase the importance of his enemy by acknowledging an insult from someone conspicuously punching upwards. Khan is a man of the people and as such has much to lose from being seen to pick an enemy who makes him appear elitist or in any way part of an unfeeling establishment. The world is Sadiq’s oyster but, like any good oyster eater he must be discreet and thoughtful. He must choose an enemy who will fulfil the appropriate role. Khan must be seen to be the bigger and more popular man.
Odd then, one might think, that Sadiq has decided that his enemy has to be the leader of the free world. Donald Trump is, in many ways, a peculiar enemy. He is both too generally disliked to cast much individual positive light on Sadiq while at the same time having enormous resources at his disposal that make him a powerful if generic enemy. He is certainly a current bete noir and someone who one might not wish to side with if one has an eye on the popularity stakes that keep young politicians awake at night, but that is not to say there aren’t potential drawbacks with picking a fight with a man who has the combined might of the CIA, the FBI and the US military at his disposal. In many ways Trump is too big an enemy to land a decisive blow on while at the same time being too much of a cipher to warrant a sustained personal attack.
Nonetheless our intrepid hero has decided that the Donald has crossed a line. Presumably the tweet calling Sadiq out over his remarks that terrorism is just something people who live in capital cities have to get used to in the modern world was what set the cat amongst the pigeons. A lesser mayor might have chosen to ignore these remarks as the ramblings of a President on the verge of a nervous breakdown in the hope of appearing the bigger and more gracious man. Not our Sadiq. He decided to let Trump have both barrels. One of his barrels appears to contain a large amount of what can only be described as wishful thinking. Khan has demanded that Trump should not be allowed to come to the UK for a State visit.
This demand is outwith any power Sadiq has to demand anything of the sort. It is a simple matter of overreaching. It is not in Khan’s gift to invite world leaders nor to banish them, despite the fact that our capital would be the backdrop to such a visit. By highlighting his own impotence in this way Sadiq appears both small and small minded. It is clear he hasn’t thought through the immense opportunities that a state visit affords the capital. Presidents, even ones as odd as Trump, bring with them both glamour and authority. Behind their cavalcades ride the twin horsemen of money and political influence, which are not to be sniffed at. It takes a self-interested mayor indeed to decide that a personal sleight should be weighed against the interests of the citizens he leads and come down on his own side in such an argument. Sadly our Sadiq appears to have the makings of such self-interest.
If I were advising Mr Khan I would suggest that he has little to gain from continuing his assaults on the Donald. It was a brave move to kick sand in the face of the biggest bully on the block but discretion requires a modest retreat at this stage. No one will think less of him if he leaves the battlefield to pursue other, more peaceful pastimes. The beauty of such free advice is that the recipient can really take it or leave it. Sadiq can decide to continue his tirades against Mr Trump if he wishes to be seen as the Don Quixote of London. I rather wish he wouldn’t though. Sadiq is, after all, the most likely heir to Corbyn. He may well end up leading Her Majesty’s loyal opposition. The last thing we need is for Sadiq’s spat to taint the waters of international diplomacy. Perhaps it is time for someone to invite him to wind his neck in and pick a more appropriate sparring partner. The Belgian Health Minister looks ripe for a kicking. Perhaps he could start there.
Jamie Foster is the Chief Writer for Country Squire Magazine. We all welcome the old boy back from a period of absence during which he was missed by many.