Let’s give credit where credit is due. Donald Trump’s first trip broad as President was tipped by everyone to be a disaster. People assumed there would be gaffe and gaffe and he would embarrass himself, his country and his hosts. Well it hasn’t happened, has it? Even his speech on Islam in Saudi Arabia barely caused a feather ruffle. He sailed through two days of potential pitfalls and political icebergs in Israel and even his meeting with the Pope went off without a hitch, even though the Pope, unusually, found it difficult to crack a smile. As I write this Trump has moved on to Brussels where he is attending his first NATO summit. Get through that without controversy and he can rightly regard the last nine days as something of a triumph.
UKIP unveiled their election manifesto yesterday. Like anyone cared.
I am a massive supporter of the so-called ‘Special Relationship’, although the very mention of the term brings me out in hives. But by definition it has to work both ways. It is outrageous that US intelligence is leaking details of the Manchester bombing to the US media and it is to the UK government’s credit that they are making no secret of the fact that there is a massive degree of fury about it on this side of the Atlantic. Donald Trump has been complaining for months that the US security services leak like a sieve, and here he has his proof. But why is it happening? To cause problems for Trump? Probably. The trouble is that the extent of these leaks seem to indicate that it’s not just one malcontented person that’s doing it. Greater Manchester Police have decided no longer to share information with the Americans. I wonder if MI6 and GCHQ will do the same. When I interviewed Michael Fallon about it on Wednesday evening he described it all as “disappointing”. When I put it to him that what he really meant was “bloody furious” he didn’t say yes, but his answer indicated he didn’t really demur. If you’ve ever seen the film LOVE ACTUALLY, you’ll know what I mean when I say that Theresa May ought to have a ‘LOVE ACTUALLY moment’ and at her next press conference make very clear exactly what she thinks about US behaviour over the last few days. She’d have the whole country behind her.
It’s difficult to know what effect the last few days will have on the general election campaign or result. I suspect that the level of debate will be slightly less aggressive than it would have been and that the voting public won’t be in the mood for the usual political games. Will the agenda be dominated by people’s demands that the party react to the terror attack or will other domestic issues creep back up the political agenda. There’s little doubt that the social care debacle seems a distant memory, although it may not remain so. If I were Jeremy Corbyn I’d now concentrate on the cuts to the police which have led to a net fall of 20,000 police officers since 2010. There’s gold to be mined for Labour there and the Conservatives had better have a well thought out response.
Words I’ve never said until this week: Alexa, play Ariana Grande
So immigration was down 84,000 in 2016 compared to 2015. The net total was 248,880. That’s nearly fifteen tens of thousands away from the much-vaunted target. What those who call for a dramatic fall in net migration don’t seem to be able to compute is that most of the people that come here are absolutely vital to the functioning of our economy. Without them, well, we’d be in a lot of trouble. I’m afraid that anyone thinks that we can reduce immigration to less than 100,000 is either deluded or will be sadly disappointed. It. Will. Never. Happen.
Diane Abbott has become the Scarlet Pimpernel of British politics. They seek her here, they seek her there, they seek her everybloodywhere. Since her car crash interview with my LBC colleague Nick Ferrari she has barely been seen. We asked for an interview with her on Wednesday to talk about security issues but were told she wasn’t available. We’ll keep trying, on your behalf, dear reader.