A Petto Nudo

Political commentators inform us that Donald Trump and Boris Johnson both enjoy a faithful horde of unqualified supporters to vote them back to power. The US system has the slightly reassuring limit of the maximum of two terms for their president. That can, however, seem a long time if a leader patently enjoys such high profile exposure to, hopefully, the admiring gaze of the nation and, indeed, maybe even more hopefully, of the entire world, rather than the more prosaic tasks of listening to advisers who do the donkey work for him, regurgitating bites of relevant news, painfully selected to promote the right image.

Do Trump and his advisors know that Mussolini was famous for having stood up in an open vehicle speeding along the highest part of the Apennines, the Gran Sasso, bare-chested – a petto nudo – in imitation of the Ancient Romans, an encouraging comparison?

Some years ago I was on a lecture tour in the USA that happened to be organised by a distant relative of Rudy Giuliani, now Trump’s lawyer. His name then was already mentioned in hushed tones, almost with a shudder of trepidation. Even then he was seen as the rottweiler of the US legal system. Now ominously he has reappeared trying to paste together the shattered image of the current president.

Will Donald Trump wonder why NATO’s meeting is at Watford, outside London? Does he recall when the British head of state could not receive him at her London residence because the streets would be filled to overflowing, not with a public anxious to applaud him driving in state to Buckingham Palace as he probably fondly imagined, but instead with comic hostility? Would he recall the huge floating pink pig balloon with his face? In the event, he was met by the then Prime Minister Theresa May at Blenheim Palace and subsequently received by the equivalent head of state, the Queen, informally for tea at Windsor Castle, safely out of sight of the rowdy protesters. Is it to avoid the streets of London that Watford has been chosen for the NATO meeting?

In spite of the unremarkable venue, this NATO meeting should be one of celebration. I continue to marvel that the seventy years of peace is the longest Europe has ever known. The Europe Union was created to settle differences through discussion and the creation of a consensus, rather than argument leading to war. It may be the first time this has ever happened in the history of the world and one that should be celebrated. History clearly shows that trade wars lead to wars of devastation. But Brexit is the first crack. To prevent the tragedy of a third world war, NATO is crucial. But so is the European Union, an area of tariff-free trade and co-operation, not a political union, but the bedrock for a peaceful resolution and for the current prosperity and world standing of the United Kingdom.

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