Let’s face it, Donald Trump’s State Visit to the U.K. is now off in practice, if not officially. He didn’t exactly have universal popularity prior to retweeting Britain First, but now he appears to have lost the support of most of his remaining backers.
The problem is not that he retweeted videos purporting to show acts of violent extremism by Muslims, but rather that he retweeted Britain First Deputy Leader Jayda Franzen. She is a former English Defense League member who left to found Britain First with Paul Golding because she disliked the football hooligan elements of the EDL.
She started by creating memes on Twitter and Facebook, which were widely shared by British social media users. But as time went on, Britain First’s stunts became increasingly extreme, including marching through a predominantly Muslim part of Luton holding crosses and shouting abuse.
As a result of the “Christian patrol,” Fransen was convicted of religiously aggravated harassment after she harassed a Muslim mother-of-four because she was wearing a hijab.
Franzen is also on police bail awaiting a court appearance in Belfast for religious harassment. She was charged with employing “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior” and is due to appear at Belfast Magistrates’ Court on December 14.
In short, this is not a woman concerned about Islamic extremism; she is a nasty extremist with criminal convictions. She might have had a fair point about the acts of violence depicted in her tweets, but imagine if the British prime minister retweeted the Klu Klux Klan. It would go down badly, no matter how innocuous the tweet itself was.
Ironically, the President’s tweets highlighted British Prime Minister Theresa May’s visit to the Middle East. She made a dry foreign policy speech in Jordan yesterday that had seemed unlikely to be covered by the British media. The subject was how to work with Muslim allies to combat terrorism. Most news channels showed it live due to Trump’s Twitter storm.
She told her audience, “The fact that we work together does not mean that we’re afraid to say when we think the United States have got it wrong…. I am very clear that retweeting Britain First was the wrong thing to do.” It came as Sir Kim Darroch, the British ambassador to the U.S., revealed he made a formal complaint to the White House.
The British government’s official position is that the State Visit will go ahead, but there is now almost no prospect of it being a success. The protests would be unprecedented, and so far Trump has shown a desire to only take trips that boost his personal vanity. That is clearly why he snubbed Mexico in favor of a state visit to Saudi Arabia, where the Royal family put his face on billboards to suck up to him.
We already know Sadiq Khan, as Mayor of London, doesn’t want him in the city. It is also hard to see how Meghan Markle would extend him an invitation to the Royal wedding in Windsor.
If he is not welcome in either London or Windsor, where else could he possibly go? Likely the date for the visit will never be scheduled. It will remain a theoretical possibility instead of becoming a reality.
If any light amusement were needed amid all this anger, it might come in form of Theresa Scrivener. When she joined Twitter in 2009, she used her first and middle name, creating the handle @theresamay.
Imagine her shock when she woke up at 4am on Thursday morning to find President Trump had personally rebuked her, believing she was the British prime minister. He tweeted, “Theresa @theresamay, don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!”
Scrivener says she has been unable to leave the house after being deluged with media requests.
She is perhaps the most unlikely victim of what has been a very strange week of international diplomacy.
Andre Walker is a Lobby Correspondent covering the work of the British Parliament and Prime Minister. Before studying journalism at the University of London, he worked as a political staffer for 15 years. You can follow him on Twitter @andrejpwalker