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Theresa May’s Alliance with Trump: Could It Cause Reputational Damage?

 3 min read / 

As the World Economic Forum (WEF) unravels in Davos this week, all eyes seem to be on two powerful, but controversial, individuals. Donald Trump’s inauguration as president a year ago sent shock waves across the globe. It did little, however, to stop UK Prime Minister Theresa May being the first to embrace Trump as the new leader.

In a dual press conference in Washington, May did little to condemn Trump’s hateful remarks during the campaign trail, and instead stood as a bystander. UK and US citizens have acknowledged the “special relationship” between both countries for decades, but these are now surreal times. So surreal, in fact, that Trump has become president with no previous political experience, who continues to run an administration so divisive that protests and hate crimes have increased across the pond since the election result.

During the 1980s, both Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan presented a budding friendship to the world. They exchanged hundreds of letters and correspondence from their first meeting in 1975, when Thatcher was a member of the Shadow Cabinet and Reagan as Governor of California. The two were supporters of each other’s policies, with Reaganomics not being dissimilar to Thatcher’s transformation of the British economy using her ideology.

Furthermore, the close network between Tony Blair and Bill Clinton in the 1990s saw the “special relationship” legacy continue. Both were pioneers of the neoliberal movement, leading their countries from the right-wing era to a more centrist one. The difference between the “special relationship” then and in the present day, is that all world leaders were considered worthy by their supporters and politically savvy for their positions. Now, Donald Trump is the most unpopular president in modern history, and with allegations of collusion with Russia, his tenure may be short-lived.

If May wants to tackle her dwindling approval ratings, she will soon realise that a Trumpist era is temporary. She must not follow the Trump administration and have her legacy shattered by aligning with a demagogue. The “special relationship” is still just as significant, but May must stand with the over half of US voters who didn’t support Trump. When the president used social media to incite racism against the Muslim community, May is quoted as saying “I don’t agree with the tweet President Trump has made, but I also don’t believe it should distract from the agenda”. Although she partially rebuked his speech, she left it aside to promote the UK-US relationship.

It has now been reported that the two will hold prioritised talks during the WEF, discussing issues such as North Korea and the Iran nuclear deal. Trump has continued to provoke North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Um, labelling him “rocket man” and spouting abuse about him on Twitter, with a nuclear war between the two estimated by experts to be imminent. If the conversation of North Korea is a highlighted subject, then Theresa May must warn Donald Trump on the implications of his verbal attacks on Kim Jong-un, and warn him of the catastrophic danger of a nuclear war. If she fails to do so, then the May premiership would look weak. Already with Brexit stacked against her, she doesn’t need the pressure of the debilitating US leader to lose more support from her base.

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