YOU can always rely on Donald Trump to grab the wrong end of the stick when he lumbers into British life.
The American president told Piers Morgan in that crawly ITV interview – well, I say ‘interview’; it seemed to be more of a tongue colonoscopy – that he might be prepared to apologise for sharing tweets from the far-right Britain First group.
His latest foray into British life is so dumb that even Mrs Maybe felt moved to un-jam her bottom from the Downing Street fence and issue a sort-of rebuke. And she doesn’t do that lightly. Sucking up to the US (and China) seems to be her main, or possibly only, post-Brexit strategy.
What moved Theresa May in such an unlikely direction? Trump’s tweeting fingers, that’s what. Alerted to Saturday’s NHS march through London, Trump assumed the marchers were protesting about the NHS, rather than massing in support.
Part of his tweet read: “The Democrats are pushing for universal healthcare while thousands of people are marching in the UK because their U system is going broke and not working.”
Well, he put his Twitter finger right on the problem there, didn’t he? Except that the marchers were demanding that the NHS needs more money and support – the exact opposite of what Trump thought.
This is tricky territory for May and her health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, as they’d rather pretend such protests never happen. Moved to respond, Hunt tweeted back at Trump, saying that while he disagreed with the marchers – well, they were marching against him – “not ONE of them wants to live in a system where 28m people have no cover”.
After that reference to the US system, Hunt added: “NHS may have challenges but I’m proud to be from the country that invented universal coverage – where all get care no matter the size of their bank balance.”
Mrs Maybe’s spokesman – and there’s a job you wouldn’t wish on your rankest enemy – said Hunt spoke for the government on health, implying that the prime minister agreed with his foray on Trump. At that point, the spokesman filled his contractual obligations by adding one of those robotic riders about record high spending on the NHS, blah-de-blah-de-balderdash.
How did Donald Trump grasp the wrong end of that stick? The answer, sadly, is that it was given to him by Nigel Farage. For reasons incomprehensible to any sensible person, Trump listens to the former Ukip annoyance, who regularly pops up on Fox News to comment on British life.
Invited to discuss the pro-NHS marches, Farage claimed the pressure on the NHS was down to immigration. “Well, the big problem we’ve got is a population crisis caused by government policy on immigration.”
No, Nigel, the big problem we’ve got is you spouting cancerous nonsense on American TV. Never mind blaming immigrants, which you always do with the jerk of a pinstriped knee – how about praising all the immigrant doctors and nurses who help keep the beleaguered health service afloat?
Just stop chewing on that big lump of hate in your mouth, Nigel, and listen to yourself for a minute. While you are spouting nonsense about the NHS, you are doing so in a country with a much worse health system than ours. The US spends more than twice as much on health than the UK, but with a much poorer outcome (lower life expectancy, big bills, patients bankrupted by illness, etc).
Trump praised Farage and Fox News for “exposing the truth”. This is so wrong you almost want to give up and bang your head against a wall until the world wakes from this nightmare.
But don’t do that: you’ll only go and hurt yourself and provide more work for the over-pressed NHS.