Sir Percy Bysshe Blithering-Snype, Twelfth Earl of Dorking, Principal Attaché for Commerce and the Exchequer at the Embassy of Great Britain here in Washington was hardly his usual convivial self on Friday. He sat through most of our consultation on English specialty export markets with a preoccupied look, barely responding to my conversation. Toward the end, I decided to call him on it by making an absurd statement to see if he was even listening.
“Therefore, whereas,” I ventured, “the elasticity of demand for spotted dick is proportional to the elasticity of Welsh flag novelty men’s boxer shorts waistbands, US imports of bitter brown ale from all points between Leeds and Newcastle can be expected to fall in the fourth quarter by an amount commensurate with the elasticity of supply surplus for flavoured water biscuits.”
“Hmm, yes,” he nodded absently. “Of course. Leeds and Newcastle. It’s those bloody Yorkshiremen and their Labour MPs.”
“Is something, by any chance… bothering…. you, Sir Percy?” I carefully pursued.
“Ah, well, I guess so,” he confessed. “It shows, does it?”
“Just a bit,” I replied. “No problems with Lady Blithering-Snype or the little Thirteenth Earl, I trust?”
“No, no,” he insisted, “nothing like that. I’m just… oh, I don’t know. The Tories were twenty points ahead in the public opinion polls, Tom! May’s idea was, we were supposed to gain a huge majority in Parliament – one that would endure for five years! She didn’t need to call an election, you know. But that’s what she promised the Tories when she called for this one, Tom – five years of absolute Conservative Party rule! Instead, we lost thirteen seats! Now we’re going to have to form a government in a coalition with the DUP!”
“And you’d rather not?” I asked.
“Oh, for Christ’s sake!” he exclaimed. “You know what you get when you mate a pig with an Ulsterman?”
“No,” I responded, “what?”
“An orange hog that can hold a grudge!” he roared. “The Conservative Party forming a government with the Democratic Unionist Party will be like the Duke of Kent marrying a Belfast washer woman!”
“Well,” I reminded him, “politics does often make for strange bedfellows.”
“What I can’t understand,” he moaned, “is how May managed to get the Tories from twenty points ahead of Labour to this… this… debacle we saw yesterday!”
“Trumpstink,” I opined. “That would be my guess.”
At that, Sir Percy knit his brow into a craggy map of uncertainly and puzzlement. “Trumpstink, you say? And what, pray tell, is that?”
“Theresa May was the first foreign dignitary to visit Donald Trump in the White House,” I pointed out. “She even held hands with him during her visit and then announced Trump would be invited to visit the United Kingdom. Shortly after that, she dragged her feet in reacting to Trump’s Muslim travel ban, and when she finally got around to it, instead of the full-throated condemnation Trump’s act of bigotry deserved, she offered up some of the weakest gruel of dissent imaginable. What’s more, she told the world that Trump had promised his support for NATO but didn’t utter a single peep about it when Trump completely ignored mention of Article 5 in his NATO speech.”
“True,” Sir Percy agreed, “but what about the twenty-point opinion poll lead immediately prior to the election?”
“The British people could smell the Trumpstink accumulating on May and the Conservative Party,” I explained, “but with Brexit negotiations looming, and the need to negotiate bilateral trade agreements with everyone – including the United States, naturally – they were willing to hold their noses and vote Tory. Last week, however, she defended Trump for revealing code-level classified information to the Russians at a meeting in the White House, basically saying it’s nobody’s business but Putin’s and Trump’s. According to my analysis, that raised the Trumpstink intensity considerably. Then, Trump insulted the mayor of London the day after the London Bridge terrorist massacre – and right before the election, at that, and when the press asked May about it, she danced around the answer as if someone had asked her if she had stopped being a bull dyke lesbian yet. And speaking of dancing around questions, look how she behaves when anyone asks a question which suggests perhaps Britain should dissent from Trump’s environmental views, particularly climate change. To anyone with more brain cells than a Spice Girl, she looked more and more like a nervous Trump Tower staff sycophant, terrified of offending The Donald, willing to do or say anything to flatter and appease him. That amplified the Trumpstink to the point where the average Briton was having to hold their nose so tightly, breathing through the mouth became necessary. Actually, right before the election, I think the Trumpstink was building up to the point where a lot of British voters were getting a whiff of it even though they were engaged exclusively in mouth breathing – there’s a point, you know, where something can stink so bad, holding your nose just isn’t enough. So finally, when Trump endorsed her election bid – well, that would be the kiss of death by Trumpstink if there ever was one. At that juncture, I’d say Prime Minister May had so much Trumpstink on her, a lot of British voters were doubling over and retching from the stench.”
“I’m beginning to see your point,” Sir Percy muttered. “As a matter of fact, just thinking about Trumpstink is making me decidedly nauseous.”
“Trumpstink,” I noted, “has the capacity to gag a maggot feasting on the rotting corpse of a Pyrenees vulture. Any foreign politician who plies their trade in a democracy and accumulates a sufficient amount of Trumpstink will be doomed to eternal electoral failure and party ostracism. Theresa May is but the first example of what will become of anyone running for office in Europe who gets too cozy with President Donald J. Trump. And politicians who ply their trade in democracies the world over, Sir Percy, would be wise to note that Trumpstink not only doesn’t wear off, it rubs off on colleagues and the bearer’s political party as well.”
“I see,” Sir Percy mused. “But what about politicians in societies that aren’t democracies?”
“Oh them?” I said. “They can roll around in Trumpstink like a dog in a pile of pig excrement to their heart’s content.”
“And why’s that?” Sir Percy wondered.
“Because Trumpstink,” I told him, “is the reeking, rancid, putrid and decaying essence of egotism, arrogance, lies, hypocrisy and oppression that comprise the fundamental basis of dictatorship. It’s why, for example, Vladimir Putin, Rodrigo Duterte, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Royal House of Saud revel in Trumpstink.”
“Oh my God,” Sir Percy sighed, face-palming in utter despair, “and Theresa May got it all over her – and now it’s rubbed off on the entire Conservative Party. It’s as if a skunk arrived at a cricket test and sprayed the whole Tory team.”
“Well,” I observed, “aside from the fact that you probably owe skunks an apology for comparing their odor to Trumpstink, yes, that’s a reasonably good analogy.”
“Hell and damnation!” Sir Percy exclaimed. “We Tories have bloody well screwed the pooch this time, haven’t we?”
“Yep,” I agreed, “Bob’s your uncle – no doubt about it.”
“So what’s the Conservative Party supposed to do now?” he desperately implored.
“Not to belabor the obvious,” I flatly declared, “but the first thing on your agenda should be to send Theresa May back to Maidenhead, Berkshire to a much-deserved retirement mucking out the stables at Newbury.”
“Right!” Sir Percy proclaimed, “and after five years, we’ll give her a shovel! But what else? How does the Conservative Party rid itself of Trumpstink?”
“As we Americans would say, you got to signify,” I advised. “You got to represent.”
“Meaning what?” Sir Percy inquired, frankly puzzled.
“Ah yes,” I remarked, “as Churchill once quipped, we are two cultures divided by a common language. What I mean, Sir Percy, is that, by every word and action, the Conservative Party must demonstrate to the world in general and the British public in general that they totally, solemly, sincerely and without reservation, abjure Donald J. Trump and all that for which he stands.”
“So,” Sir Percy speculated, “you mean, whatever Trump says or does, the Tories should espouse and do the opposite?”
“No,” I cautioned, “don’t do that – it won’t work.”
Sir Percy’s eyebrows shot up, forming a chevron of frank surprise. “It won’t? Why is that?”
“Because,” I elucidated, “Trump is too fickle. His mind can concentrate only on what the person to whom he last spoke told him. If the Tories simply follow a strategy of contradicting him in word and deed, they will end up looking as ridiculous as he does.”
Sir Percy considered this proposition for a moment, the heaved yet another sigh. “Yes, of course. Absolutely correct. Quite astute, actually. All right then, what would you suggest instead?”
“Examine what the Democrats say and do,” I recommended, “and espouse that.”
“The Democrats?” Sir Percy protested. “We can’t do that! They’re the liberals! I mean,they favor the sort of things that the Labour Party goes in for, don’t they?”
“If you study American history, Sir Percy,” I admonished, “you’d know better than that. The Democrats were, after all, the party that favored slavery during the Civil War. Practically the first official act of Woodrow Wilson, a famous Democratic president, was to deny US government employment to African Americans. He was also a great fan of D.W. Griffith, the film director who made ‘Birth of a Nation,’ a motion picture glorifying the Klu Klux Klan – and I’m sure even you, despite being a Briton, have heard of them.”
“Yes, yes, well,” he vacillated, “all right, then, I suppose the Democrats aren’t all a bunch of flaming Marxists, but still, wouldn’t it be more sensible for the Tories to emulate the Republicans?”
“Absolutely not,” I assured him. “That would be the biggest mistake you could make.”
“Really?” Sir Percy objected. “How could you possibly say that?”
“Because,” I said, “The Republicans have more Trumpstink on them than the Tories could ever have.”
“Oh,” Sir Percy breathed out in a shocked, stunned monosyllable. Then, after a pregnant pause staring at the ceiling, he slowly continued. “Right. Of course they do. Please forgive me for being such a stupid twit, not realizing that.”
“No problem,” I assured him. “After all, you’re a member of the Ruling Class.”