What do we make of Donald Trump?

trump

Do you think Farage told him that Trump is another word for fart?!

This time last week I thought impossible that any Western Democracy could elect a lying, fraudulent, misogynistic, racist to any position never mind the head of one of the most important democracies in the Western World. Well I was wrong. He didn’t win the popular vote – Hillary Clinton got about 2,000,000 more votes than he did, but he took the Electoral College and in January will become President.

Instinct tells us that we should ignore this loathsome creature. But instinct would be wrong. He is there and will be for 4 years. I strongly suspect that, although I don’t want this to happen, he will make such a mess of things that he will be a one term wonder. But that might not be the case not least because power tempers reality. Lots of people believe that they can things when once in power and find out that they cannot. Even the President of the USA has to work with other people and other countries.

Principally however it is reality that moves a person from being a candidate to being a President or Prime Minister or Mayor or Council Leader. To begin with you never have all the money you want or need. Further what seemed simple in opposition can become horribly complex when you are in control.

Already we have seen some signs of change. Obamacare might be modified but may stay. His views on foreign policy, on which he largely hasn’t got a clue are already being modified and will be modified even further by the State Department and the Military. Already his Mexican Wall has become a fence (most of which is already in place!) He has changed his mind on some elements of protectionism which bodes well for future trade issues. Handily for us his election has strengthened the Pound against the Dollar. We are no longer the worst performing currency in the world!

Is Trump a threat or an opportunity? I suspect he is both although I must say that he would be more of an opportunity and less of a threat if we had not had the Brexit vote.

How might he be an opportunity?      I think that there are many, many people in the USA who will despair of their new Presidents and furthermore what the election of that President shows about American society as a whole. We in the UK should place ourselves to take advantage of that. In the places of learning; in Silicon Valley in all the new technologies the UK can place itself as a relatively sane, relatively safe and very well connected nation. Not as good as we have been but given our economic and financial strengths and the undoubted similarities between UK and USA cultures and the undoubted advantage of a very similar language we should strike to maximise inward investment. We are also, by international standards, a very liberal country both in our society and in our laws. This provides a huge attraction and fascination for the type of people we want to deal with.

I also think that of the Liverpool City Region. If I was the incoming Mayor after next May I would treble the resource we are throwing at attracting inward investment from North America but particularly the Eastern seaboard of the USA. As a City we are very well known and very much liked within Silicon Valley and the new technology industries. Our Universities are well respected, we are well located and we have good ‘soccer’ what’s not to like?!

But we mustn’t downplay the threat or the challenges. Interestingly the Country where least noise has been made about the election is China. China is in a very powerful position more power than Russia or the EU to challenge Trump supremacy. Calmly and quietly for many years China has been buying American assets and providing a safe haven for the $US. We don’t know how much of America China actually owns any more than we know how much of the UK it owns. If China starts to sell dollars and flex its muscles it could well lead to a fiscal and industrial crisis in the USA.

The crude protectionism that Trump claims to want will lead to trade wars. The totality of this will be less trade for everyone. As countries erect barriers they will dampen entrepreneurism. That will lead to risk taking and less innovation. Already our Apple goods (I don’t buy them myself) are 10% more expensive because of the slump in sterling. What happens if we respond to action against our goods by imposing a tariff on theirs? The age of the World Trade Organisation where we at least try to reconcile our many differences may well be over.

This splendid isolation also seems to be a major part of his foreign and defence policies. In one thing he is absolutely right. Europe must pay its fair share of NATO. For too long some major European Countries have both contributed less than the recommended 2% spend to defence and have also failed to commit to NATO activity when there has been a clear need for them to do so. @European’ NATO and its defence and foreign Ministers now needs to be more assertive than before. To my mind this is no bad thing. For the last 3 decades we have not been an effective member of NATO but have acted as America’s poodle. There needs to be better debate and discussions in Europe.

The third area where there should be concern is climate change. We must not underplay the second in getting the Paris Accord signed up earlier this year after its ‘in principle’ agreement last year. But in Trump we have a man who said (we don’t know of he believes it) that climate change was invented by China to fuel their own industrial expansion! I don’t much difference Trump will make in practice. Over the past decade the cost of new carbonless technologies has dropped massively and will continue to do so as the market increases. Much of that innovation is coming from the USA although China is catching up. At the end of the day it’s money that talks in the USA and the figures don’t add up in the same way.

So like every other article I have seen about Trump that has not been widely partisan I conclude that he is no more than a factor in a rapidly changing world. As I have remarked before Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter and Apple are now far more powerful than any politician and it will continue to evolve in that way. We have no alternative but to cope with wretched man but we need to do so with optimism and not pessimism. In change there are always be opportunities for the fleet of foot. Let our Country and our City region be the ones that gain from what at first sight seemed the awesome failing of democracy in the USA.

 

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. . Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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