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4 December 2019updated 09 Jul 2021 7:55am

Evening Call: Brave Sir Donald Runs Away

By Jonn Elledge

The best laid plans, eh? I was planning to use this space to report and/or mock whatever President Trump said in the press conference with which he was expected to end this week’s NATO summit. Slight problem: there has been no press conference. Donald Trump is returning to Washington, and we shall sadly on this occasion have to live without his wit and wisdom.

In a series of tweets announcing the decision the president flagged the “great progress” the alliance was making, claiming that the US had persuaded other countries to stump up another $130bn a year to fund it, before announcing: “We won’t be doing a press conference at the close of NATO because we did so many over the past two days.” In case anyone out there was worried this might be a bit brusque, he added, “Safe travels to all!” so that’s lovely.

It’s possible, I guess, that he’s telling the truth – I mean, we all get bored of press conferences, right? But the consensus seems to be that this was actually a fit of pique over a hot mic video clip which seems to show Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau mocking him to other world leaders behind his back.

The footage shows Boris Johnson asking French President Emmanuel Macron why he was late, in a group that also includes Dutch PM Mark Rutte and NATO secretary general Jens Stolenberg. Trudeau responds, “He was late because he takes a 40-minute press conference off the top.”

Trump has since described Trudeau as “two-faced” – which, given the Candian PM was in hot water only a few weeks ago over the fact he had worn blackface to parties on a number of occasions which he declined to pin down, feels like a surprisingly pointed joke for Trump – and attacked Canada’s inadequate contributions to the NATO budget.

One person who did give a press conference is Boris Johnson. Showing all the courage and principle for which he’s justly famous, the Tory leader denied laughing at Donald Trump, and when asked if he thought the President was good for the western alliance spoke at length about how great the US itself was instead. The Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn notes that Johnson managed to get through the entire 21 minute press conference without referring to Trump by name once. So brave.

Anyway, enough of all that. The election edition of the New Statesman is out, and while you should obviously read all of it, here are two particular highlights. Firstly, our international editor Jeremy Cliffe explains why NATO is still essential for international peace. And secondly, Stephen’s last politics column before the election, in which he discusses how the Tories are haunted by the lost majorities from elections they believed that they’d win. It’s worth a read.

Good day for…

White political leaders (although, when is it not?). California Senator Kamala Harris announced late yesterday that she was suspending her campaign to be the Democratic nominee for president in 2020.

That, as Clare Malone noted on the excellent FiveThirtyEight Podcast, means that – for all the talk of it being the most diverse primary field in US history – there is no ethnic minority candidate who looks to have a path to the nomination. The field is now totally dominated by white Americans.

Bad day for…

Exercise bike company Peloton, which ran a pre-Christmas TV ad so bad that it managed to knock 10 per cent of its share price. (I found this out because the news made my colleague Jasper literally laugh out loud.)

The ad shows a woman who looks suspiciously like a model being motivated and excited by the fact her partner has dropped an expensive, bike-shaped hint she should lose some weight – rather than, say, slapping him. More from Bloomberg here.

Quote of the day

“I get teased for my intellectualism.”

Johnny Mercer, the former MP and current Tory candidate for Plymouth Moor View, explaining why his attacks on Dianne Abbott are not rooted in prejudice in any way. Far be it from me to question a war hero, particularly one who’s had such a tough time of it in the comments section of the Plymouth Herald, but I really don’t think that’s what Johnny gets teased for at all.

Everybody’s talking about…

The future of the left. By “everyone” here, I kind of mean “the New Statesman politics desk”, but nonetheless, in this week’s mag you can find Patrick’s interview with John McDonnell, Ailbhe’s one with Emily Thornberry, and a long-read by George on Momentum’s plans for a post-Corbyn world. A veritable embarrassment of riches.

Everybody should be talking about…

Local transport, which in my considered opinion everyone should be talking about a lot more all the time. Anyway: this morning the Tories announced a £4.2bn budget which they claimed would help “kick-start” England’s big cities in building a London-style transport network.

It is, sadly, utter bobbins: in context that’s hardly any money at all. I explained why for CityMetric.


Questions? Comments? Please no abuse today, I’m not strong enough to take it after Christmas Tree-gate. Anyway, here’s my email. Please be gentle.

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