Even on a day like this, a wet Tuesday in June, you would expect the British left to find a few thousand protesters to issue screaming denunciations of Donald Trump. So it was, and here they were: Quaker socialists and union activists, avengers for Palestine and gay priders, euro-federalists, vegans, concerned mothers, NHS idolaters and 13 people dressed as chickens. They marched out of Trafalgar Square and down Whitehall.
Nobody rubs them up the wrong way quite like Trump does. When President Xi Jinping, the closest personage the 21st century has produced to an actual dictator, made an official state visit to the UK in 2015 the marble streets of Whitehall were largely deserted. When Donald Trump arrives, he is welcomed by the sight of an enormous phallus mowed into one of England’s green and pleasant fields.
In many respects this is a perverse testament to American influence. Britain is surely the most American country in Europe. The British walk like Americans, talk like Americans, eat American food, communicate with American devices (made in China anyway), order taxis and find partners and hotels with American apps, use slang learned from American musicians and sitcoms, and are spied on by American national security agencies. Though this decades-long process has become largely invisible to the British themselves, undoubtedly it has taken place.
If half of America fervently hates Donald Trump you can expect the same number of Britons to feel the same way. America sneezes; Britain duly catches a cold.
Demos and protests in London usually follow the same scheme: you note with surprise that lesbians and hardline Muslim clerics feel comfortable marching alongside each other; there is a stage where minor and major figures on the British left castigate the usual bogeymen; sometimes there are weak musical interludes between speakers, sometimes there are weak slam poetry interludes between speakers instead; the memory and example of Nelson Mandela is evoked, at least once.