- George MonbiotBritish journalist and author. He’s a columnist with The Guardian. His latest book is titled Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis.
- Sheila Menonsocial justice activist and one of the organizers behind the Trump baby blimp.
Mass protests are expected to greet Donald Trump as he arrives for his first visit to Britain as president. In London, protesters will float a 20-foot-long giant baby Trump blimp outside Parliament. The balloon depicts the president as an angry orange baby, wearing a diaper and clutching a cellphone, ready to tweet. In a press conference this morning, Trump said he is “fine” with the mass protests planned in the country and that Britons like him “a lot.” In London, we speak with Sheila Menon, social justice activist and one of the organizers behind the Trump baby blimp. And in Oxford, we speak with George Monbiot, a British journalist and author. His latest book is titled “Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis.”
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We go now to Britain, where mass protests are expected to greet President Trump as he arrives for his first visit to the country as president. Demonstrators say that hundreds of thousands of people are planning to take to the streets tonight and tomorrow. In London, protesters will float a 20-foot-long giant baby Trump blimp outside Parliament. The balloon depicts the president as an angry orange baby, wearing a diaper and clutching a cellphone, ready to tweet. In a press conference this morning, Trump said he is, quote, “fine” with the mass protests planned in the country.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I mean, I think they like me a lot in the U.K. I think they agree with me on immigration. I’m very strong on immigration. I made a point today: I said, “You’ve got to stop. You’re ruining your—you’re going to have a lot of problems.” You see what’s going on throughout the world with immigration. I probably, at least partially, won an election because of immigration. If you look it Italy, Giuseppe, who I got to know quite well over the last month and a half, he won his election because of strong immigration policies on Italy. I think that a lot of the people in the U.K.—I think that’s why Brexit happened. Now, I don’t know what’s going on with the negotiation. Who knows? But—and I guess that’s become a very interesting point of contention. I said I’m going to a few hot spots. We have NATO, then we have the U.K., and then we have Putin. And I said Putin may be the easiest of them all. You never know. But I’m going to a pretty hot spot right now, right? With a lot of—a lot of resignations.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: When asked again about the protests in Britain, Trump said he owns, quote, “a lot of property” in the country, and brought up his electoral victory in the 2016 election. The U.S. Embassy has warned Americans in Britain to, quote, “keep a low profile” during Trump’s visit, warning that protests may become violent.
AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, Brexit negotiations have been upended by a string of resignations from top officials, including former British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Johnson wrote in his resignation letter earlier this week, “Brexit dream was dying,” and “We are truly headed for the status of a colony.”
Well, for more, we go to the U.K. In London, Sheila Menon joins us, social justice activist, one of the organizers behind the Trump baby blimp. And in Oxford, George Monbiot is with us, British journalist and author, columnist with The Guardian, his latest book, Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis. And still with us in New York, Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation.
George Monbiot, talk about what’s happening in Britain right now. What the American people know, we hear about the resignations, for example, of the foreign minister, Boris Johnson, and President Trump attacking the Conservative prime minister, May.
GEORGE MONBIOT: Yes, well, we’ve got a government in total meltdown. We’ve got Brexit chaos. We’ve got a World Cup defeat. We’ve got drought. We’ve got wildfires. We’ve got Novichok poisonings. The only thing we’re missing at the moment is a crazed orange demagogue. So, hey, thanks, guys, for sending him over. We have completed the set. It is all beginning to look a bit apocalyptic here.
I mean, the one thing that the British ruling class has been really good at is continuity. They might disparage democracy. They might make all these horrible shortcuts in terms of preventing us from having an elected second chamber, allowing dark money to govern the electoral process, but they manage to hold it together. They’ve kind of held it together since 1066.
But they are completely falling apart in front of our eyes. It’s just an amazing thing. And there have been leaked memos over the last couple of days, talking—showing that the government is making preparations for stockpiling processed food, for sticking barges in the Irish Sea covered in generators to supply our electricity. The arrangements they’ve got for creating smooth customs, once we get out of the European Union, rely on vaporware. They haven’t got any of the technology they say that they’re going to have to deploy to allow the borders to remain functional and goods to be able to pass one way or the other. The whole thing is just melting down into total confusion and apparent catastrophe. So, we’re in a very weird place. This was meant to be a very stable nation. You know, they sort of kept it running through thick and thin. Now it is literally falling apart in front of our eyes.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, George Monbiot, what do you think the impact will be? I mean, earlier, Trump, yesterday, said that he always liked Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, who just resigned earlier this week. He said Britain is in turmoil. And today, the government, the British government, is expected to release its white paper setting out what Theresa May’s plan is for Britain’s relationship with the EU following Brexit.
GEORGE MONBIOT: Yeah. Well, Trump and Boris Johnson are birds of a feather. They’re both duplicitous. They are untrustworthy. They’re entirely self-interested. They’ve got no national interest in view at all. It’s entirely about what they can extract from a particular situation. And Johnson just changes his views and changes his approach according to how he thinks he can game the system. I think he might have overreached himself this time. He is probably dead, but these people do have a zombie-like quality of continually returning into politics after you think you’ve finished them off.
The government is going to publish this white paper, which is supposed to be the rational form of Brexit. But it’s already clear that it simply cannot work. It doesn’t resolve the Irish question: What do you do about the fact that there’s going to be a European border across Ireland, potentially destroying the Good Friday Agreement, which brought peace to Ireland. You’ve got the republic to the south. You’ve got Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom, to the north. There are huge sectarian divides. Those were kind of sorted out by the Good Friday Agreement. That is now in serious jeopardy. We simply don’t know what we’re going to do about customs. What we had was a massive campaign in which none of the detail was discussed, in which people were induced to vote leave through a few trigger words, a few symbols and sensations and slogans. But the really important stuff is in the detail, how are you going to do this. And no one has a flying clue about how they’re going to do it—not Theresa May, not Boris Johnson, not the soft Brexiters, not the hard Brexiters. They are like a ship without a rudder.
AMY GOODMAN: What about Nigel Farage? When Donald Trump was elected president but still in New York, before he became president, one of the first people to visit him, if not the first foreign leader to visit him, if you can call Nigel Farage that, was Farage, the former leader of the right-wing populist party UKIP, you know, the U.K. Independence Party. British tabloids have reported that he’s been prevented by Prime Minister May’s government from meeting with Trump during this visit to Britain. And if you can talk about the significance of what this visit means, where Trump is going? With the mass protests in London, the major meetings will take place outside of London.
GEORGE MONBIOT: Well, you have to realize, this is not a state visit, because a state visit would have involved exposing him to the public. He would have had to go through certain parts of Central London. It would have been seen as something which reflected on the British government. He is regarded, even by this Conservative government, as a serious liability and embarrassment. So while he’s here, he’ll be skulking 'round the edges of the nation, scurrying away from where everyone is, because, as he said, we like him so much. We like him so much that we'd like to present a major gift of tomatoes, ripe, in their prime, to him. A few eggs, as well. We’d like to let him know just how much we appreciate his presence here. And if he really believed that we liked him that much, I’m sure he would embrace the opportunity to engage with us on that level. But everywhere he goes, people are going to try to get as close as possible. He will be dogged by massive protests.
Now, you asked about Nigel Farage. We would be very grateful if he returned with Trump to the U.S., which the U.S. Republican Party seems at the moment to be his natural home. He is of that same demagogic stamp as Trump and some of the other Republican leaders, very divisive character who uses immigration, again, to promote his own politics, inflames a sort of dog whistle racism in this country. But he’s kind of out. He’s out of the loop at the moment.
But the danger is that if everything goes to custard after Brexit, which looks highly likely, then one of two things is going to happen: Either we’re going to blame the right people for it and say the engineers of this, including Farage, including Boris Johnson, including many other senior people in the British Conservative Party, are responsible for the chaos of Brexit, or we’re going to see a sort of post-World War I Germany thing, where they say, “Oh, it’s the saboteurs, have undermined it—that undermined it, the traitors. It was going to be a glorious Brexit, but they have destroyed it, those remainers and those soft people within the Conservative Party, the Labour Party and the rest.” And then you might see an opportunity for a fascist revival here. And I really mean a fascist revival. And I see Farage as a sort of soft fascist who’s quite likely to mutate into a hard fascist, given the opportunity. We’re in a very perilous situation in this country at the moment.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re speaking to George Monbiot, the British journalist. When we come back, we’ll also be joined by Sheila Menon, the organizer behind the Trump blimp, the large orange Trump baby that will float over Parliament, approved by the London mayor, holding a cellphone. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: “Pirates Anthem” by Shabba Ranks. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: As thousands protest President Trump’s visit to England, the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has given permission for a large Trump baby blimp to fly over the protest. Khan has come under attack from some circles and recently defended his approval of the blimp in an interview on Good Morning Britain.
MAYOR SADIQ KHAN: This weekend, there are two big protests taking place in our city. On Saturday, there’s an extreme-far-right “Free Tommy Robinson” protest. You know my views on that.
PIERS MORGAN: Yeah.
MAYOR SADIQ KHAN: They’re the same as yours, by the way.
PIERS MORGAN: Yeah.
MAYOR SADIQ KHAN: And also a separate pro-Trump rally on Saturday. On Friday, there’s an anti-Donald Trump protest. Now, my view is irrelevant. The issue is: Do they have freedom to protest, freedom to assemble, and should they be allowed to do so? If it’s peaceful and it’s safe, they should.
AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re joined in London by Sheila Menon, the organizer behind the Trump baby blimp, again, this huge blimp that will float over the British Parliament, an orange baby blimp of Trump holding a cellphone. And also with us, in Oxford, George Monbiot, the British journalist and Guardian columnist; Katrina vanden Heuvel, here in New York, editor and publisher of The Nation.
Sheila, talk about this blimp, who came up with it, the fact that the mayor has approved the blimp floating, and what your thoughts are behind it.
SHEILA MENON: So, we’re coming to London with this blimp. We’re going to be flying it over the houses of Parliament on Friday morning. And really, this is our humorous way of protesting against the very serious, hate-fueled, toxic politics of Trump and his policies, that are already having a devastating impact on people, not just in the U.S., but all over the world.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: [inaudible] very diverse movement that’s participating in the protests. There are organizations that represent Muslims, that represent Latin Americans. Could you talk about how all of these groups came together?
SHEILA MENON: Sorry, I didn’t hear the first half of the question.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: I’m asking: This group, the people who are protesting Trump, they are comprised of a very large number of different groups with different interests, groups that represent Muslims, that represent Latin Americans, environmental campaigners. Could you talk about how these different groups came together to protest Trump?
SHEILA MENON: I mean, on Friday, here in the U.K., we’re going to see all sorts of groups coming together to protest. And what we’re—how we see our inflatable Trump baby, this is a symbol that really everybody can get behind. Trump’s policies are having an impact on people, like on migrants, on refugees, on women, his misogynist, racist, xenophobic policies that are fueling hate across the spectrum. And really, so this Trump baby is a symbol that’s going to be something that everybody can get behind. People are going to be coming together with all sorts of issues, because his issues, his politics and his policies are impacting people in every way, whether it’s climate change, ripping up the Paris Agreement—that’s going to have an impact on people all over the world—how, you know—how his foreign policies are contributing to what’s happening all over the world, and to the refugee crisis, that we are all witnessing and we are all feeling the impact of. So, on Friday, we’re going to be seeing people from all groups coming together to unify behind a unified hatred of this man’s hate-fueled politics and policies.