It was a geographic chauvinism that largely died with the British Empire that allowed “England” to serve as a stand-in for “Great Britain,” not unlike how “Russia” stood for the Soviet Union. That peculiarity is even enshrined in a humble church graveyard less than an hour by car from my home. Some dozen long strides from the grave of George Orwell lies the grave of HH Asquith, “Prime Minister of England.” Only England, you ask? That would be news to the Scots and the Welsh.
Donald Trump’s assertion notwithstanding, “England,” “Britain” and “the United Kingdom” do not mean the same thing, and “England” no longer is considered a valid place holder for Britain. Britain is composed of England, Scotland and Wales. Add Northern Ireland and you have “the United Kingdom.” That a tourist might be confused by this is perfectly understandable. That the president of the United States would be confused, and what is more, dares to incorrectly lecture the world on the proper distinctions of those geographic designations, is inexcusably ignorant.
Recently the Trump White House announced that Trump is coming to London in December to attend the NATO conference there. Some Britons responded with outrage. Others with a shake of the head and knowing smiles. The word on the street, if you will, is Donald Trump will never make it to London. He and his illegitimately usurped “presidency” are doomed and headed for the disgrace of prison, by way of impeachment or indictment.
In Britain, Donald Trump is as hated as Barack Obama was loved. Brits adore educated people and they recognized Obama as an educated person, as one of their own. To most Brits, Donald Trump is a rube, a vulgarian, a self-congratulatory lecturer from the deepest wells of ignorance. Nothing fails more quickly in Britain than a phony and Trump is as phony as they come.
To be sure he has some supporters here. But if Donald Trump still doesn’t know the difference between England, Britain and the United Kingdom, the feeling here is he won’t be getting a second chance to learn it. Or, to couch it in the language of another disaster not unlike his moribund presidency, now is no time, Captain Smith, to be organizing the Titanic’s second voyage.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.