It’s hard to avoid thinking about Donald Trump today, even if sticking your head in a bucket and shouting “No!” is a more tempting prospect.
The orange blimp floated above all those protesters who weren’t there yesterday. “Fake news,” according to Trump, who saw no protesters, only streets lined with waving fans. Or sky out of the helicopter window. And no one had any disobliging banners up there, although a passing seagull may have pulled a rude face.
What Trump said about the NHS will detain us in a sentence or two. First let’s cheer ourselves up with the blimp. Not the inflatable baby Trump, even if that always is a sight to see.
No, I am thinking more of the over-inflated human baby blimp squeezed into a dress suit for dinner with the Queen. That white tie arrangement was something else. It seemed designed to make Trump appear even fatter and more ridiculous than usual.
He looked like a penguin who had swallowed two other penguins. Worn to match this arrangement was his serious person face, the one that suggests a bad bout of post-cheeseburger indigestion.
This morning’s newspapers are an over-stuffed feast of Trump. Many highlight the President’s statement that he wants the NHS to be on the table in any US-UK trade deal. He said such a deal would be “phenomenal”, but the NHS would have to be on the table.
The Daily Mirror’s headline sums up the general feeling on flogging off the NHS to American insurance businesses – “BUTT OUT, MR PRESIDENT.”
Too late for the printed papers, but Trump changed his mind after all-round hostility greeted his earlier statement. He told Piers Morgan in an interview for Good Morning Britain that he didn’t see the NHS as being on the table.
Well, make your mind up, Donald: is it on the table or off the table? What this should remind us of is Trump’s ability to say any old shit any old time. Is the future of the NHS still tied up in a post-Brexit stich-up with Trump’s USA? It seems unlikely any British government would swallow that, unless it was one led by the malign huckster Nigel Farage (sorry for spoiling your day in such a careless manner).
If Trump can change his mind so quickly, and change it back again no doubt, his “phenomenal” trade isn’t worth the paper it isn’t written on. It’s just another meaningless superlative from a spout of meaningless superlatives.
I’ve never truly understood what the Brexit-lovers mean when they shout “Sovereignty!” at the top of their voices. The dictionary offers “the ability of a state to govern itself”, and if that’s your definition, handing over the NHS to US insurance companies hardly sounds like a sovereign improvement.
Thinking of Nigel Farage as prime minister is the stuff of horror stories. It is also the stuff of Russel T Davies’ Years And Years. This dystopian family drama on BBC1 is by turns witty, distressing and horribly plausible.
Now (spoiler alert) the female Farage Vivienne Rook (Emma Thompson, cast against type to excellently jarring effect) has become prime minister. Perhaps Davies knows something we don’t.
Last night’s episode was truly shocking for another reason, and I’ll say no more for fear of spoiling anyone’s viewing.
Davies is a clever writer, entertaining, smart and deeply thoughtful. One of the things he is doing here is showing how we are all part of a wider world, and that the refuge crisis is everyone’s crisis. Humanity’s crisis, if you like.
Years And Years is so unsettling it’s too much to watch the news afterwards. This drama about the Lyons family is the news accelerated by 15 years: a rocket-powered ‘now’ that isn’t heading anywhere pretty.
And ‘now’ is hardly pretty, as that human Trump blimp reminds us.