LONDON — A heat wave, a government in danger of collapse, World Cup hopes dashed and now this, says Paul Sandle of Reuters, standing in London’s Parliament Square on Friday morning.
Twenty-five feet above him, steadying before it ascended another 75 feet: A blimp representing a “baby” Donald Trump.
One week before parliamentary recess, the British press got a taste of the contentious American president, virulently unpopular in Britain, who insulted the already unsteady Prime Minister Theresa May and suggested a departed Cabinet member might make a better leader.
Sandle says May’s government, which lost two Cabinet ministers this week over a “compromise” Brexit proposal that Trump opposes, was holding it together partly because no one else wanted the job.
“It’s been exhausting for all of us,” Sandle says of the Trump visit and other events. On a bright Friday, surrounded by other press, Londoners pausing en route to work and curious tourists from adjacent Westminster Abbey, Sandle was reporting on the Trump blimp before heading to cover an anti-Trump protest expected to draw tens of thousands of people.
Trump has criticized London Mayor Sadiq Khan for allowing the blimp and the protests against him, prompting Khan to respond that Britain won’t suspend its freedoms just because they could upset the feelings of some visitor. Khan also noted he approved a pro-Trump rally as well.
On Parliament Square, a blimp organizer said Trump’s outburst proved his point
“People were saying we were being childish, but this might be the most childish American president we’ve ever seen,” said Matt Butcher, flanked by rope-pulling volunteers with red jumpsuits saying “Trump babysitter.”
Butcher gestured upward at a likeness of a diaper-swaddled Trump. “This is a thin-skinned baby full of hot air,” he said, raising his eyebrows as if to say, “is it not on the mark?”
Butcher said organizers raised five times the amount they needed, meaning Baby Trump would be hitting the road. “We’re already working on the world tour,” he said.
A passerby, longtime London resident Emmanuel Ekwelem, broke in to thank Butcher and the team. “This has cheered up my day,” said Ekwelem, stung by Trump’s attacks on immigrants, particularly those of color.
Sandle, the Reuters reporter, took it all in a few steps away. He sought the perspective of the looming parliamentary recess and Trump's departure.
“This is just a photo op, really,” he said. “I think we all need to lie down in a darkened room.”