t seems a lost world now, but for right-wing Britons back in 2016 Donald Trump was the coolest guy around to be photographed with. His shock – in more ways than one – victory prompted frenetic predictions about a new age of nationalist populism. Trump’s victory in November did, after all, follow the equally anti-establishment revolt in the Brexit referendum five months before.
In due course, Trump would claim that he predicted Brexit. Rightist politicians and commentators basked in a warm glow of mutual congratulation. Nigel Farage turned up at Trump’s rallies. Michael Gove rushed to New York to interview Donald Trump for The Times, with Rupert Murdoch in the room. He had the obligatory thumbs-up picture taken against a backdrop of framed magazine covers, some real, some fantasies, Gove beaming as though he couldn’t believe his luck.
Farage and the rest of the “bad boys of Brexit” had their grinning mugs parked next to Trump’s in the gaudy gilded surroundings of Trump Tower. Farage must have been smiling from ear to ear when Trump publicly asked Theresa May to make him the UK’s ambassador to Washington. It’s fair to say, to borrow a phrase once deployed by Farage, they’re not laughing now.