Can history repeat itself? Could transatlantic lightning – and chemistry – strike twice?
As British Prime Minister Theresa May prepares to meet newly-inaugurated US President Donald Trump in Washington on Friday, many are wondering whether the US-UK relationship is about to become that little bit more ‘special’.
Thoughts are turning back to the 1980s and the exceptionally warm ties between the then residents of the White House and 10 Downing Street, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.
Described as ideological soul-mates, embracing tough capitalist principles as they triumphed side-by-side in the Cold War, the pair also enjoyed a genuine friendship.
Ronnie and Maggie’s personal bond was genuine and enduring.
Thatcher wrote in her memoir, “The Downing Street Years,” that in their first meeting “I knew that I was talking to someone who instinctively felt and thought as I did.” This was not just a matter of politics, but “about a philosophy of government, a view of human nature,” she said.
Given some of Trump’s comments, notably on women, it seems unlikely that May will be able to say the same at her first meeting with the current US President.
She has already described some of Trump’s remarks as “unacceptable”.
And speaking on the BBC’s ‘Andrew Marr Show’ last weekend, May said she would not be afraid to challenge any future “unacceptable” talk from the US leader.
Fortunately, trade rather than President Trump’s views on women should be at the forefront of Friday’s talks and in that respect, Donald and Theresa may well be on the same wavelength.
After all, Trump has made no secret of his support for Brexit – Britain’s departure from the EU – which May is leading as prime minister.
As such, commerce outside Europe is important to the UK and Trump has already said he wants to arrange a swift bilateral trade deal with Britain.
It won’t all be a policy love-in, however.
May’s spokeswoman says she expects the prime minister to make clear to Trump that Britain is a strong supporter of the 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and world powers, which the new US leader has threatened to either scrap or change.
Realistically, it is unlikely that Donald and Theresa will be ‘leadership soul-mates’ as Ronnie and Maggie once were.
Congrats to the UK's 2nd woman PM, Theresa May. Here is Pres Reagan with PM Margaret Thatcher in 1981 pic.twitter.com/9eyJ5myoVD— RonaldReaganLibrary (@Reagan_Library) 13 juillet 2016
But human relations are an unpredictable science. And who can really foresee what Friday’s meeting between the Republican US president and Conservative British prime minister – 2017 style – will bring?
“Isn’t she marvellous” – Reagan famously said of Thatcher.
Perhaps Trump, who has shared a photo of a meeting with the Reagans, will also find Theresa May “marvellous…bigly!”
An old picture with Nancy and Ronald Reagan. pic.twitter.com/8kvQ1PzPAf— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 9 janvier 2017