The week in which the US watered down a United Nations resolution condemning rape in war is probably not a good week for Theresa May to hand the president a public relations coup
Sure, turning down an invite to a banquet for Donald Trump is little more than gesture politics. But throwing a banquet for Donald Trump is gesture politics on a grand scale to begin with, and of the two, I know which gesture I prefer.
Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to stay in and wash his hair that night, perhaps opting for a modest takeaway falafel wrap in preference to the multiple courses of haute cuisine dished up on these occasions, has inevitably brought huge quantities of incoming flak. The most histrionic denunciations gleefully list the “dictators, despots and despicable groups” with whom the he previously has chowed down.
Not only that, but a future Corbyn-led government will have to engage with the US administration, whoever is running the show on the other side of the pond. So how can the Labour leader possibly fail to don his best penguin suit and join hundreds of other guests as they raise a glass to the guy from the White House?
Well, for a start, there is no obligation whatsoever on him to do so. Corbyn is still the leader of the opposition, not yet prime minister. Until he does get the keys to Number 10, he can meet or not meet anybody he damn well chooses. As he has made clear elsewhere, he is entirely willing to sit down on the other side of a negotiating table with Trump, were that to prove appropriate or useful. But he is not under any duty to join a de facto pro-Trump jamboree. State visits are essentially exercises in glitz, gun salutes and guards of honour, centred on the ra-ra and razzmatazz of a ride down The Mall in a coach or four with Her Majesty the Queen.