EU haggles over the bill… and Trump versus the Pope

I've been shortlisted for the UK Blog Awards 2016 Final.

David Cameron is back from Brussels after what sounds like the longest argument over a restaurant bill in the history of mankind. “Look, I really didn’t have as much wine as France and the Germans drank all the beer – and I only had a mouthful of pudding.”

Has our baggy-eyed prime minister got what he wanted from the EU deal; who knows? If that man stumped up for the whole meal but managed to haggle his way to a free bottle of wine, he’d only tell you about the wine and hope you didn’t notice everything else on the bill.

Seeing as we’ll all have to make up our minds later this year, it’s a ‘yes’ from me for various reasons (leaving would be horrendously complicated for unknowable benefits; going is riskier than staying as we know what’s there; Nigel Farage and his crimson-cheeked cohorts want us to leave…).

Other than that I don’t have anything to say for now. But never mind Europe. I can’t stop thinking about Donald Trump and the Pope.

Now as far as I know, Donald Trump doesn’t have an opinion about Europe. Or if he does it’ll be a psychotically mad one about building walls round Camembert and passing a law saying the only Europeans allowed into the United States will those named Donald.

But the Pope versus Trump: what a story that was this week. Sometimes real life is more ridiculous than anything a seller of satire might knock together in pursuit of hollowed-out laughter.

In case you missed this most unlikely of political spats, the brief details are that Pope Francis suggested the Republican frontrunner was “not a Christian” for wanting to build a wall on the Mexican border. On the plane back to Rome from a papal trip to Mexico, the pontiff said: “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”

Trump’s response was to bow his head in shame and mutter an apology. Oops, got my wires crossed there. Of course the Mad Mullet showed no such contrition. Instead he said during a campaign event in South Carolina: “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.” He then accused the Mexican government of “using the Pope as a pawn”, alongside other nonsense I cannot summon up the enthusiasm to repeat.

Here is something worth passing on. In a bonkers press release, Trump threw down a warning: “If and when the Vatican is attacked by Isis, which as everyone knows is Isis’s ultimate trophy, the Pope can have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president because this would not have happened.”

Trump’s skill lies in passing off utter rubbish as robust sense. Just how is he going to stop Isis possibly attacking the Vatican? I was going to write “God alone knows”, and perhaps that is or isn’t the right phrase.

Trump is forever making these unsupportable proclamations. “When Donald J Trump is President it will never rain on a Sunday.” He didn’t actually say that one, but it’s no less dementedly absolute than most of what he has said.

At least two things are odd to British sensibilities about American politics. One: that a self-mythologising mouth on legs such as Donald J Trump could have a chance of becoming President. Two: the huge part religion plays in the Presidential race.

All candidates of whatever stripe have to proclaim their religion, and never mind what they may truly believe. Sometimes American elections look like a weird reality contest to prove who is the holiest; no atheist would stand a cat in Connecticut’s chance of being elected President.

So that’s why Trump brandishes his old Bible at rallies; and, also, why squaring up to the Pope might not be a smart idea, as there are an awful lot of Catholic voters in the US.

Maybe by putting the tiff into pontiff, Trump will finally have faltered. Well we can only pray, even those of us who don’t.

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