There are many reasons to be jealous of Jeremy Clarkson – the fabulous cars he gets to drive, his unique way with words, or the huge sums of money he earns, for example. But above all of this, there’s a far more compelling reason – he got to punch Piers Morgan in the face.
For reasons I find hard to fathom, Morgan seems to have got himself a regular job on Breakfast TV. At first they had him on there for a week as a kind of joke, But then he came back again, and now he’s still there, and there’s no sign that he’s about to go away any time soon. The joke isn’t funny any more – at least not to me. It turns out that Morgan is good friends with Donald Trump – a friendship made in hell if ever there was one. When considering who this friendship casts the worst light upon, it’s probably fairest to call it a draw.
As I’m sure you’re aware by now, Trump has become a serious U.S Presidential candidate, a fact that seems incredible to British eyes, given that he is little more than a figure of fun here. Anyway, Piers Morgan found himself interviewing a Labour MP last week about the attempts to have Trump banned from coming to the UK, following his suggestion that all Muslims should be banned from entering the United States as an anti-terrorism measure. Morgan thought that banning his friend from travelling here was idiotic, and rather worryingly, I find myself agreeing with him.
Donald Trump was called a ‘buffoon’ and a ‘wassock’ in parliament last week, and it’s hard to find a coherent argument that suggests these assessments are anything other than a bit too generous. But if these were grounds for banning someone from the country, there would be a lot of empty aeroplanes landing at Heathrow – and a lot of full ones leaving.
His crime though, was an unforgivable one – he said something stupid and offensive about Muslims. You can do little worse than this in Britain today, (although as an aside, the same rules don’t seem to apply if you say something stupid and offensive and you ARE a Muslim) but the calls to ban Trump from these shores seem like a gross over reaction.
Our government welcome leaders from all over the world who haven’t just said something daft and sported a dodgy haircut - they’ve presided over (and continue to preside over), some truly horrific actions and events. I’m not going to detail the events which the likes of Russia’s President Putin, China’s President Xi Jinping or the King Of Saudi Arabia have been closely associated with – I’m sure you’re familiar with some of them - but there’s been no campaign to prevent these people from entering the country, on the scale of the one relating to Donald Trump, and certainly not from M.P’s.
They used to say that actions spoke louder than words. Not in this case. In fact, it seems that in the modern world, you can literally get away with murder just so long as you don’t talk about it.
Maybe this is something Donald Trump needs to learn – or maybe he doesn’t. You see despite making a number of statements generally perceived to be outrageous (a wall along the Mexican border anyone?) his popularity shows no sign of waning. In fact his support has grown with each headline-grabbing outburst.
Why is this, and what can we learn from it?
Well one thing we need to consider is that huge swathes of the United States are not as…how can I put this delicately…not quite as advanced in terms of education, sophistication and social awareness as we might think.. In the UK, we are more accustomed to exposure to the educated liberal elite that populate big cities like New York and Los Angeles, than we are to the insular, ill-informed and ill-educated masses that live in areas we tend to know little about. Anyone who plays up to prejudice will always go down well with people like that.. But I think there’s more to it than this..
People throughout the developed world are bored with, and cynical about, professional politicians with their politically correct statements and their carefully worded speeches which offend nobody and say very little. When someone comes along who is outside of the mould, he gets attention, and when he tells it how it is (or at least how he sees it) people start to listen.
Just grabbing attention and getting people to listen to what you’re saying is a huge advantage when you’re selling anything. Of course, not everyone will like what they hear, but at least they hear it. And the more people that hear the message, the more that will respond positively to it. It’s a numbers game. You can have the strongest message, but it’s of little value if nobody is listening because you don’t have their attention.
Whenever Trump speaks now, the world is listening, and no matter how crass, stupid or plain wrong his message might appear, the more people that hear it, and that more will respond positively. People only respond once you have their attention. Perhaps a lesson there for anyone seeking to influence others. Which, of course, is all of us.
So could a Donald Trump style politician succeed here in the UK? Well I’ve insulted a large proportion of the American population, but are we much better here…are we more sophisticated, better educated and better informed.? Perhaps not. A few years ago, a petition calling for the aforementioned Jeremy Clarkson to become Prime Minister generated a lot of support. It may have been tongue-in-cheek, but would you rule out Clarkson – or someone like him - being voted into a position of political power, should he chose to stand? I wouldn’t
The capacity to grab attention, to stand out from the crowd and then to play to people’s prejudices and pre-dispositions can often trump (no pun intended) intelligence, logic and conventional competence.
Something to think about, no matter what sphere of life you’re trying to move forward in.