Theresa May’s ‘breathless wooing’ of Donald Trump a great pity, says former speaker John Bercow

Donald Trump and Theresa May sitting at a black tie event
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Former Commons speaker John Bercow has criticised the eagerness Theresa May showed to “pay homage to Donald Trump” during the early days of his controversial presidency.

“Ultimately ineffective”

Ex-prime minister May was the first foreign leader to meet the US president in January 2017. This was when the pair held bilateral discussions in Washington only days after his inauguration. The former leader of the Conservative Party also extended an invite to Trump for a state visit to the UK soon after his shock election victory in November 2016.

His visit to the country in June 2019 was one of the final acts of May’s premiership before Boris Johnson replaced her the following month. It also made Trump only the third US president to enjoy the full regalia of a state visit.

Bercow, speaking to Times Radio, said he thought the former home secretary found her attempts to develop strong ties to the Trump administration “ultimately ineffective”.

Trump was publicly critical of May’s Brexit negotiating position with the European Union. And he regularly talked up her rival, Johnson. Former MP Bercow, who stood down as speaker in November 2019, said:

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I thought it was a great pity for a start that Theresa May rushed to pay homage to Donald Trump. She seemed almost breathless in her quest to get him to come to this country and speak here.

Ex-Commons speaker John Bercow
Ex-Commons speaker John Bercow (Mark Johnson/Channel 4)

“Thin-skinned”

Bercow said her relationship with Trump fell apart after she criticised the president for retweeting material from far-right political group Britain First.

The former speaker said:

He, as we know, is notoriously thin-skinned (and) turned on her. And OK, her efforts on Brexit were fruitless and often maladroit, but he then conducted a running commentary on those efforts, undermining her at every turn.

So I think she probably realised that currying favour with him was ultimately ineffective and maybe even counterproductive.

Blocked

There are currently Stateside calls for Trump to be impeached for inciting the riots at the Capitol building in Washington this week. This despite having less than two weeks left in the White House before president-elect Joe Biden takes the reins. Five people, including a policeman, died during the mayhem.

The US president has regularly – and falsely – cast doubt on the legitimacy of November’s US election, in which he was defeated by Democrat rival Biden.

On 8 January, Twitter permanently suspended Trump’s account. This was “due to the risk of further incitement of violence”, according to the social media firm. Trump had used the account to air his views on a daily basis during his term in the Oval Office.

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