There are certain traditional ceremonies without which the inauguration of a new American president cannot take place. Chief among them, at least on this side of the atlantic, is the opportunity such a moment provides for pondering anew the health and well-being of the ‘special relationship’.
A remarkable amount of tripe must be talked on these occasions. You will recall how Bill Clinton’s supposedly-unhappy time at Oxford prejudiced him against this country and you will recall, of course, that Barack Obama’s Kenyan heritage left him temperamentally ill-disposed towards this sceptr’d isle. Obama, of course, confirmed this by removing the now famous Churchill bust from the Oval Office, an act of unpardonable impertinence. By contrast, the fact that, prior to his inauguration, George W Bush had spent more time in Scotland than any other foreign country obviously meant something good.
Other countries also parse their relationship with the United States in such terms but there is something painfully absurd – something shockingly needy – about the manner in which the UK does so. Not least since the transatlantic relationship is institutional, not personal. It is the intelligence and security and military relationship which really matters, not whether a President and a Prime Minister like one another (though that can, for sure, be useful).
But now we have a governing party so consumed by loathing of all things European that it, or at least too many of its leading members, seem determined to latch onto the presidential teat, now that the Donald has declared his own indifference towards, or even disdain for, the European project. At last, a president with whom we can do business! A president who really, really, likes us. The toadying is bad enough but the confirmation bias is even worse.
Of all the jaw-dropping things said by cabinet ministers in recent months has there been anything more