My late father, bless his soul, would have a cutting remark to describe people he didn’t like. ‘Shop people’ he called them when I was growing up in Asia. This snobbery and prejudice was embedded in his psyche as a little boy when opening a shop was seen as something that people who were not educated did.
To put things in context, becoming a retailer was perceived as easy work. Shop spaces were cheap and plentiful. In those days of pre-regulation people could hand over rent, sign a contract and hang their shop sign all within 24 hours before becoming a fully fledged retailer. Health and safety did not extend beyond not letting your child close to a boiling kettle. Loose electrical fittings, rickety entrances and poor quality ware was no barrier to becoming a shopkeeper/retilaer. This was a long time go you understand.
Retail was the sphere where, as far as my father was concerned, no-hopers went to make their mark. As someone who loved shopping none of this made sense to me but Asian parents can be a minefield of confusion.
“Do they understand history or politics?” he would say.
Quite by coincidence a street food seller who lived local to us set up an Indian food stall with his sons and went from living in a tiny low income house to a mansion within years. I kid you not. They were a capitalist success story and had done it without knowing history or politics. History to this family would be as unimportant as being familiar with the regional politics of Spain would be to Mongolians. Why should they care?
More often than not I was embarrassed by his biasness. The richest people on earth are retailers. My siblings and I all went to university but pose no threat to the wealthy folk’s position on the Forbes rich list. I could never find a nugget of substance in his analysis but my father must have had some prescience about Donald Trump.
The President of the USA has tweeted about his refusal to visit London to open the new American Embassy because it has been sited in an “off location”. Trump reserves the sting in his rejection till the last line of his tweet when he proclaims that he would not be cutting ribbon.
The opening of most retail stores involves ribbons being cut. Location, location is paramount for drawing the punters in. Trump is a retailer – he sells real estate, his name as branding, franchises and whatever else it is that the Trump Corporation sells. Retail was his life. Quite obviously Trump is still immersed in retail and has found it nigh impossible to make the transition even after a year of being President.
Why else would Trump not consider the American Embassy located in Britain, one of the most important global economies in the world, as being a politically important outpost for his country? Instead, he is highly irked by the area within London where it is situated. Trump seems to think that this is an episode of a property programme or, worse still, a task handed out on his former ‘Apprentice’ programme where participants have to find the best location to sell their products. But this is Trump we are talking about. He does not have a clue about political strategy. Trump doesn’t understand politics.
He probably would have come quite happily if the embassy had been situated next to Harrods or, come to think of it, as a retail space within the store. All that glitz would have made him feel quite at home resembling his gilded apartment in Trump Towers.
Neither does Trump, otherwise known as the ‘stable and genius’ moron, have any knowledge of the history of diplomacy. Embassies conduct the business of the home country in a host country using the soft power of diplomacy to advance national interests. Embassy officials headed by an Ambassador promote trade and economic ties which, as part of the Liberal world order, is intended to foster peaceful global relations.
To equate an embassy with location and ribbon cutting demonstrates a profound ignorance of politics and history. If only my father had lived to see an American President prove him right.
I am delighted to say that this blog post made it into the ‘Top of the blogs Lib Dem Golden Dozen weekly round up’ on 14 January 2018