Trump risks harming Theresa May and the party in the long term

By Mateo Quintero

Donald J Trump was inaugurated as US President less than a fortnight ago, and yet he has already secured his place as the most divisive US President in modern history. Within his first week in office he has signed six controversial executive orders, which have affected many of President Obama’s signature policies. This was prior to his decision to temporarily suspend the admission of refugees and the entry of people from seven predominantly Muslim countries, a decision which has sparked immense international backlash, and has the potential to greatly hurt Theresa May and the Conservative Party.

Since his inauguration, Theresa May and the British government has been desperately courting the Trump administration, looking to secure trade deals for post-Brexit Britain. While this may have seemed like a good strategy to take prior to Trump’s inauguration, it is now clear that there will be no ‘pivot’ to the centre-ground, or even centre-right ground, and he will instead pursue the policies which he campaigned upon, including going ahead with his divisive “Muslim ban”. This should be extremely worrying for Theresa may, considering that a 2015 YouGov poll showed that 64% of Britons disapproved with Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the United States, including 61% of Conservative Party supporters. However, Donald Trump has seemingly done just that by banning the entry of citizens from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen without much reason other than his citing of “terrorism” concerns. Despite the lack of justification for the decision, it took more than 24 hours for the British government to respond, made more worrying considering that fact that there was uncertainty over whether dual British nationals would be affected by the decision. Boris Johnson’s later condemnation of Trump’s policy will have fallen on deaf ears to many Britons who had already watched Theresa May walk hand-in-hand with Trump at a press conference held that very day. The backlash in Britain to Trump’s “Muslim ban” has already been immense with more than 800,000 signing a Parliamentary petition to to cancel Donald Trump’s state visit to Britain in just twelve hours.

The worry is that Theresa May’s determination to get onto Trump’s good side will harm her and the Conservative Party in the eyes of many Britons, especially those from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) background. This would damage David Cameron’s most important legacy to the Conservative Party, that of attracting minority ethnic support. According to research by British Future, 33% of BAME voters supported the Conservatives in the 2015 general election, which is equates to one million votes, the strongest ever support for the Conservative Party at a general election. However, Theresa May’s playing up to the the Trump government could hurt much of that and do more to further repel young people away from the party, a demographic which the party desperately needs, especially if it ever wishes to do well in urban areas, such as London or Manchester.

The fact that a trade deal with the United States cannot be done until the UK withdraws from the European Union means that it should not be a priority for Theresa May to pally up to Donald Trump at this moment in time. It will take at least three years for the UK to withdraw from the European Union, by which time Donald Trump could potentially be impeached for his long list of past, present and future transgressions, meaning that it is unnecessary for the Prime Minister to risk any political capital by being seen associated with Trump, especially considering that any such association could tarnish the long-term future of the Conservative Party.