This week my email stopped working. Technically the term is “went down”, a term which gives a pleasing, if spurious, sense of a physical event having occurred. I gazed into the screen, everything looked familiar, but where there was the usual sense of familiar movement now nothing was happening. Being deprived of email, the continual flow of messages and news in and out was, at first, a disorientating experience but being of an age (mid-forties) that mans I grew up in a time before compulsively staring into a hand-held gadget became a necessary way of working, conducting friendships, and “receiving government services: as Ministers like to call it, I quickly found this unplanned unshackling a great relief, for a while. Then it just became inconvenient and annoying. In the end it simply meant I was cut-off from colleagues, loved ones, and sources of information. Much as it might be a relief to go back in time to less frenetic age of communication the world has become connected, and that’s just the way it is.
Some similar sense of disruption and disconnection is currently being experienced by the world in its dealings with Donald Trump’s Washington. For many normal service with the United States started suffering disruption last November and “went down” on the day Mr Trump was inaugurated. There is no sign or sense that “normal service” will be resumed.
The new President apparently thrives on chaos and friction. He has had time to hone his approach. He is an experienced and practised political hand. He has publicly considered running for the White House at every election since the late 1980s. Twice he has considered running for Governor of New York. For many years he has provided political comment and expressed views on a range of public policy issues. For a long time Donald Trump has taken the idea of running for and holding public office very seriously indeed. It is not his fault if others at home and abroad have not taken him seriously.
The World needs to restore a connection to Washington, stop shouting and listen to what the President is saying and doing. The travel controls, for example, are temporary. Mr Trump has frequently said he wants better relations with President Putin but they “may or may not get on and I’d put it at no better than 50 per cent that we will”. More than any other person in public life people hear what they want to from the President, and that frequently is not all of what he actually says.
In the UK Theresa May has got the UK back on-line after the huge disruption caused by David Cameron’s EU Referendum. As with Donald Trump in the Brexit/Article 50 debate people hear what they want to. The Prime Minister inherited a towering and complicated political challenge that threatened the UK’s diplomatic and trade connections abroad, and severed bonds of connection and affection in families and communities up and down the country.
Mrs May’s approach to politics is the polar opposite to Donald Trump’s. She eschews the megaphone, marshals her information, checks her facts, and goes in for thoughtful and considered decisions. Carefully the Prime Minister is putting in place the building blocks to give the UK the best chance not only to keep its existing connections open but to hugely improve the country’s connectedness around the globe.
Staying connected is the key to success in all relationships. Thank goodness my email connection has been restored.
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