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An absolutely, 100 per cent, not fake interview with President of the United States Donald Trump

OK, this is not a real interview with the 45th President of the United States. But it absolutely is a real chat with the president's impersonator-in-chief on Saturday Night Live, Alec Baldwin, and his co-author, Kurt Andersen.

Making America great again

Q. Is America great again, yet?

A.  It's so, so much greater than it was ten months ago, unbelievably greater. I ask people that all the time, around the White House, at the fantastic Trump properties I visit, at my rallies, real people, real Americans, the staff at Mar-a-Lago, so many immigrants, probably all very legal, so proud of me and what we’re doing. And you know what? Everybody agrees.

Q. Exactly how much greater is America since you started making it great again? Could you put a number on it?

 A. I'm a numbers guy, I love numbers, I'm one of the great businessmen, business is all about numbers, plus in my case toughness and a sixth sense about the future, so sure – I'd estimate 100 per cent greater, probably at least 100 per cent, could be much more.

Q. At what point do you say, “OK, it’s great now, America is back to being great”? And what do you do at that point?

A. Great question, excellent question, such a better question than the media in America ever ask me. But the honest answer is that the people will tell me, I won't tell them: "President Trump," they'll say, "you did it, America is great again, you're like a magician, like a superhero." And at that point we'll keep going, and make America greater than it has ever been, OK? That's our next slogan: MAKE AMERICA PERFECT AGAIN

Q. You’ve fired a lot of people lately. The Attorney General…

 A. Hold on – that woman wasn't really the actual attorney general, she was just the fill-in because the obstructionist Democrats took so long to confirm Jeff Sessions –which, as I told a couple of the Democrat leaders later, maybe I wish they hadn't confirmed him – but anyway, the one I fired was like a substitute teacher, like an office temp.

 Q. …. the Director of the FBI, your Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff, two Communications Directors, your Press Director, your Chief Strategist, National Security Advisor, your Secretary of Health, and several others have all gone within the first year. Are you the best president ever at firing people? What’s the secret?

 A. I have this incredible sense of when somebody has outlived their usefulness. The secret is being tough and decisive, as everyone saw me being for 15 seasons on the incredible #1 hit shows Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice. Firing people is what Trump does, right? Those were reality shows. That's what the people voted for, why I won in a landslide among the legal voters.

Q. How many people would you say have betrayed you since becoming president? Are you keeping a list?

A. Great question. Fantastic question. One of the best questions. But we don't know the answer yet, do we? I mean, there are these showboating Republican Senators, the losers who only have the guts to attack Trump when they're headed out, dead men walking, and there's this terrible Greek kid Rope-a-dope-alous or whatever who's  so scared of jail he'll say anything, lied to the FBI, I'm sure now lying to Mueller about me. But in our country, by the way, it's not illegal for a president to keep an Enemies List, even though people think it is because of Nixon.

Q. Are you completely sure this conversation isn’t being wiretapped?

A. Are you trying to get me to say Obama is still wiretapping me? Because I'm not falling for that. Even if it's true and even if he still has the help of MI5, MI6, all your MIs, the ones who helped him before.

Q. Can the Secret Service read people’s thoughts?

 A. I can't go into that, very, very top secret, the most top secret, – that's why they call it "the Secret Service," right? Did you know that Harry Houdini, the greatest magician ever, back when the great American magicians did real magic, actually escaped from anything, made elephants appear and disappear, did you know Houdini worked for the Secret Service? I hear that's definitely true.

 The Third World War

Q. Let’s talk about China. What’s the best kind of china to have your people serve you KFC on?

 A. Is that a joke, some kind of English joke? And by the way, give me the name of one global retail business based in England? You can't. Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips? Gone. Even your Jaguars are, like, so bad now.

Q. You’ve threatened North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen”. Do you think it’s possible to conduct a nuclear war against a country that is smaller than the state of New York without also starting a war with its immediate neighbours?

 A. You say "conduct a nuclear war." But the nuclear, as terrible as it is, the beauty of it is that if you're us, we've got thousands of nukes, you drop like a dozen on North Korea, and it's over as soon as it starts. And you do it on a day without wind, a zero wind day, that's what my son Barron suggested, brilliant kid, so the radiation doesn't blow around to South Korea or over to Japan. And China, trust me, China would be very happy to have North Korea gone – I joked with Xi about that, we talked about how North Korea is like communist China's crazy first wife they're still married to and paying for and a divorce would be so rough and expensive.

Also, you say New York state, but have you ever travelled around, it's tremendous, huge, you could drop a nuke on Buffalo and back east in Manhattan, nothing, don't hear it, don't see it, no radiation, no problem whatsoever. And I mention Buffalo because, many people don't realise this, it's suddenly completely filled with Muslims.

Q. What kind of décor do you have in the room with the nuclear launch button? Is there anything else in there to help you make the right decision, when the time comes?

 A. You know what? I found out there actually is no button. Big disappointment. Just like there's no red phone I can use to talk to Putin. So many things about being president are like that, everybody thinks it's like in a movie, the president can do anything, keep the Muslims out, tell the FBI who to arrest, whatever, but no. In lots of ways I was more powerful when I was a CEO, did whatever I wanted, fired whoever I wanted for any reason.

The US and the UK

Q. What was Theresa May’s reaction when you held her hand? Did you ask first, or did you just grab her by the hand?

 A. Loved it! I could tell, trust me. I could actually feel her pulse go up... I’m very good at that, knowing what people want, even when they don’t realise yet they want it, especially the women.

Q. What kind of a trade deal would you like to do with the UK?

 A. A perfect trade deal, better than when you were part of quote "Europe," unquote, great deal for us, great for you, you buy our fantastic airplanes and machinery, we buy your Stella McCartney shoes and U2 albums and so forth.

Q. You once told Howard Stern you “could have nailed” Princess Diana. Would that have made you our future King?

 A. She was so lovely, and I was single for a couple of years when she and Prince Charles weren't doing so great, and she frankly really liked Trump a lot. I mean, a lot. But I hear she could also be a piece of work. And also, she'd be very old. Like, so old.

The Ladies

Q. You’ve threatened to deport huge numbers of immigrants and to ban people from entering the US based on what country they’re from. How can you be sure that among the millions of people affected by such policies there isn’t a potential Miss Universe– or even a future Mrs Trump?

 A. You think you're so funny. You know we won a lawsuit against an English newspaper after they said untrue things about the First Lady's working life, right? So this English snarky thing is, like, not a good idea. Trust me.

Q. You’ve said that “putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing”; do you worry that Melania is doing too much “work” as FLOTUS?

 A. The work they do as First Lady isn't really work, you know. It's like being a royal whatever — look nice, show up, have some kids, which is perfect, and how a lot more wives should be, in my opinion, like a First Lady isn’t boss of anything, don't make important decisions. Except in Hillary's case, and that was a disaster, for America and apparently for her marriage.

The Internet

Q. You’ve talked about asking “Bill Gates about… closing that Internet up”. Which parts of the internet should be closed?

 A. Well, for starters, the Isis and radical Islamic terrorism parts, okay? And the fake news parts – not all of the fake news parts, I understand that's impossible, not even China can do it, but the most damaging fake news parts.  I'm going to name a very important commission to study how to do that.

Q. Where do you compose your greatest tweets?

 A. Probably in bed, from around 3:30 am to dawn. My CIA guy tells me I’m in what they call “the 3:30 club,” with Stalin, Pinochet, other historic tough leaders, up super-early, before their enemies, organizing. At 3:30, I'm alone and my mind is very, very clear. But that's also a hard question. You know why? Because I'm not sure which tweets are the greatest.  I haven't done the ranking yet because being president keeps me so incredibly busy, unbelievably busy, you wouldn't even believe how amazingly busy. In fact, I have to go be presidential right now. Cheerio.

You Can't Spell America Without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year as President Donald J. Trump (A So-Called Parody)by Alec Baldwin and Kurt Andersen, published by Penguin Random House, is on sale now.  

Will Dunn is the New Statesman's Special Projects Editor. 

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“They are leaving at an alarming rate”: European NHS workers on the winter crisis, austerity, and Brexit’s impact

“It’s a house of cards, and we’re getting closer and closer to the point where it’s all going to collapse.”

This winter, for the first time in five years, Joan Pons Laplana, an NHS project manager and transformation nurse from Norfolk, “went back to working the front line” because his hospital “had no nurses”. As was the case in many other NHS hospitals nationwide, wards were closed, non-urgent appointments and operations cancelled, and their resources focused on A&E.

“We managed to put a plaster to stop the crisis, but now we need to catch up with the patients and operations and everything,” he says. “And that's like a catch-22.” NHS England recommends a working capacity of around 85 per cent in hospitals to absorb the winter’s patients rise, but Pons Laplana’s hospital is “constantly” working at 90 per cent, he says. “It’s a high stress environment, constantly low on resources and doctors. And now we don't have enough staff.” He sighs: “It’s getting more and more difficult to deliver safe care. At the moment, we’re playing Russian roulette.”

Originally from Barcelona, Pons Laplana has lived and worked in the UK for 17 years. He is one of around 62,000 EU citizens who currently work for the National Health Service, according to House of Commons statistics. Amid the winter crisis and severe financial pressure, the NHS’s next big problem is already unfolding: the prospect of Brexit is driving European NHS workers away. Within England’s NHS services, EU nationals make up almost 10 per cent of doctors, more than 7 per cent of nurses and 5 per cent of scientific, therapeutic and technical staff. Almost 10,000 EU workers had already left the NHS when NHS Digital released its 2017 data last autumn.

“If none of the EU citizens were [in my hospital], I can say without any exaggeration: you could absolutely close tomorrow”, Dr Peter Bauer, 47, a consultant anaesthetist in a Brighton hospital who has worked in the NHS since 1999, tells the New Statesman. In his hospital, he says, the proportion of EU staff is “phenomenal”: “Well over 50 per cent of senior staff is European, it’s about three quarters of the people. It would be disaster.” Mary, a 37-year-old British nurse from London, says her clinic, which employs many Europeans, is struggling to find a cover for her colleague on maternity leave: “Recruitment has fallen massively since Brexit.” With the British government still unclear on citizens’ rights, it is unlikely to stop there.

The ability of competent, skilled European staff to move seamlessly to the UK from the continent, thanks to the EU's freedom of movement, has been “a boom for the NHS”, Bauer says. Recruiting elsewhere (something the NHS has already started doing) will bring additional costs, visa requirements and various other complications that freedom of movement was designed to avoid. “You need these people! If you can't recruit Europeans, you then have to go out of the EU, and it's much more costly and difficult. It's a house of cards, and we're getting closer and closer to the point where it's all going to collapse.”

“If EU citizens like myself decide to go, it would take about 4,200 years to close the gap.”
Peter Bauer, consultant anaesthetist, originally from Germany

Recruitment from European countries has fallen rapidly. For instance, the number of incoming EU nurses fell by 92 per cent after the referendum, contributing to a shortfall in those able to fill the 24,000 nurse vacancies in England alone.

“For the first time, we have seen a reduction in the pool of EU citizens working for the NHS, and that is critical”, says Bauer, who teaches at medical school and has observed the “mismatch of numbers” in terms of graduates – especially a lack of British graduates. “If you want to fill the increased demand with British graduates, you would have to hugely enhance the capacity of British universities to train doctors, and then you would have to put them through specialty training, and that would take decades.”  It takes “about fifteen years” to train an anaesthetist like himself. He laughs: “If EU citizens like myself decide to go, it would take about 4,200 years to close the gap!” Mary, the British nurse, agrees: “Come 2020, we're going to be in serious, massive crap.”

Jettie Vije, a Dutch national who works as a GP practice nurse in Norfolk, meets the “occasional old patient” wanting to discuss Brexit: “They say, ‘Isn’t it great that we’re leaving the EU?’” Vije has been in the UK for four years, which is less than the five-year threshold for settled status; so “great” may not be the best word to describe her situation “I try to keep it on the medical side and not to discuss whether leaving the EU is good or not”, she says. “I am here to do my job as a nurse.”

“I try not to discuss whether leaving the EU is good or not. I am here to do my job as a nurse.”
Jettie Vije, GP practice nurse, originally from the Netherlands

Every EU citizen in the UK knows others who have left. “On a daily basis, I can see that people are leaving”, Pons Laplana says. Portuguese workers at his hospital are “leaving at an alarming rate”. An Italian colleague of Bauer’s is applying to a job in France (“He is probably going to be gone very soon” ); another one, a Czech colleague, has gone part-time, working four weeks in Czech Republic and four in the UK. “The direction isn't for people to be drawn into the UK”, Bauer says.

Mary, the nurse from London, works with colleagues from all over Europe, from Spain and Portugal to Romania and Poland. “Just hearing the conversations they have...  They feel they're not welcome here anymore,” she says, citing one who just moved to Ireland. “Despite what we say and how much we appreciate them, it really doesn't matter” she says. “They're nervous, so a lot of them are leaving.”

The ones who stay behind aren't just losing friends and colleagues to a political decision in which they had no say. Like every Briton, they are attached to their life in the UK as they know it, and to one of its greatest pillars: their employer and health care provider, the National Health Service. As the recent winter crisis has made years of under-funding more apparent and more critical, just like Brits, they worry the NHS may not recover.

European workers have been part of the NHS and British life for years – in Bauer’s case, decades – and have witnessed different government policies. When Bauer arrived in the 1990s, Tony Blair had just taken office: “Over the first ten years, you could see how pumping money into the NHS was leading to a huge increase in the capacity”, he says. There were “more beds, more nurses and doctors”, and small things, too – like “more hand washing basins”. “As the coalition government, and then Cameron, took power, you could see how the investment was scaled back”, he adds.

The NHS is already in dire straits due to the financial pressures exacerbated by austerity. Last September, Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, estimated in the Guardian that the Health Service needed an emergency investment of £200m to £350m to avoid a winter crisis. It didn’t come – and non-emergency procedures were cancelled across the country in January. That shortfall is only the start however, and by 2020, the NHS will face a £20 billion funding gap. The Conservative manifesto pledge of an extra £8bn is considered by leading health think tanks and experts to be inadequate. Inflation and demand, which Bauer says “keep rising”, are deepening the gap.

“At the moment, we’re playing Russian roulette.”
Joan Pons Laplana, NHS project manager, originally from Spain

“When the demand is a lot higher than the funding, then there is a gap and that gap is getting wider and wider each year. That's what provoked the crisis,” says Pons Laplana, who has seen stress in his wards go “though the roof” with the pressures. “I reckon 50 of the team have been off at some point because of the stress”, says Mary, who had to take two weeks off around Christmas because she works in a department that treats life-threatening conditions and it all became too much. “We are GPs, we are counsellors, we are social workers... We're everything at the moment.” To add to the stress, the lack of funding and the nurses’ pay cap are making situations like Mary’s more precarious: she says she had to remortgage her house to pay for a £10,000 training that may allow her to be promoted. “To be able to make ends meet, a lot of the staff do extra shifts, some are working fifty hours to have the same quality of life that they had five, six, seven years ago, and pay the mortgages”, Pons Laplana explains. “But a lot of us are getting tired. Tired people make mistakes. And mistakes cost lives.”

These problems would exist without Brexit, but the decision to leave the EU will exacerbate the health services's problems in ways beyond simply driving workers away. The famed “£350m a week for the NHS” pledge wheeled out by the Leave campaign is credited with helping to win the election, but the drop in value of the pound and economic uncertainty mean that, as Bauer points out, “in actual numbers you're seeing so far a reduction of £350m a week” – less cash in the economy is likely to mean less cash for the NHS.

Mary says she is “immensely worried” about the possibility of the British government selling NHS contracts in a future US trade deal struck to make up for lost trade with the EU: “The essence of what the NHS is, care for all, that will go and the thought of that scares me to the bone.” Brexit, Bauer says, is an “unmitigated disaster”: not just because urgent issues like the NHS’ winter crisis are being overlooked by the “completely paralysed” government’s obsession with the UK’s departure from the European Union, but also because it will exacerbate such issues further. The Home Office’s tightening of migration rules will make it harder for the Health Service to hire critically needed staff, he sighs: “It's one more dimension of self-harm on Brexit.”

“EU workers are leaving at an alarming rate”
Joan Pons Laplana

For the EU citizens who are still here, the dilemma is twofold. Leave, because Brexit has made their future and right to work in this country uncertain? Or stay to see the Health Service they have put so much work in fall into pieces? “I worked very hard for three years to be in the managerial position I have,” Pons Laplana says. “If I go back, I will not have the same job. My home is here. My heart is British.” Vije doesn’t think it will come to her leaving, but until the deal is finalized, she cannot be certain: “I'm just waiting and watching.” Although Bauer doesn’t want to leave either, he has started on his contingency plan: getting German passports for his children. “I don't see a rosy economic future for them in the UK”, he says. “Britain is so divided now, the government is divided, the Tories are divided, Labour is divided, families are divided.” 

“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” may work as far as the government’s negotiating strategy goes, but it also means EU workers are left in limbo. At a time when the NHS desperately needs staff, if the “really well trained, hard workers, well-educated” EU nurses and doctors to change their mind and go, they will be sorely missed, Mary says. “But then I think, what would I do?” She pauses. “Probably the same.”

Pauline Bock writes about France, the Macron presidency, Brexit and EU citizens in the UK. She also happens to be French.