‘I want to hold your hand, Oh please say to me, You'll let me be your man’, crooned the Beatles but, that could have been Theresa May to Donald Trump last night (if you excuse the pronouns) as the PM went in for a second awkward clutch with the President.
The United States POTUS and FLOTUS are in the UK for their first state visit since the election. Tension is bubbling up, not least because a big blimp shaped like a baby Trump in diapers is flying over London and protests are set to erupt throughout the city today. On top of the public backlash, Trump has shutdown May’s Brexit dreams and said to the Sun that the Prime Minster’s chief pain in the arse, Boris Johnson, would ‘make a great Prime Minister’. With the backdrop set the pair with their respective partners - Phillip and Melania - had dinner at Blenheim Palace last night and their second public hand-holding.
Who could forget that during May’s visit to the White House she held Trump’s reportedly tiny hand in a wet embrace. Why? The President reportedly suffers from bathmophobia, the fear of falling downs stairs or slopes. Last night as Trump strode up the steps of the British palace there was May in her red sheaf dress jogging behind to support the President. In a photo-perfect moment, the pair’s hands grazed each other.
In most incidents walking hand-in-hand is innocuous. It’s as natural as breathing for mother and child, as familiar as kissing for lovers, but under this expression of allegiance is a political underbelly. As common-place as it is, this show of hands is a vision of strength, of protest, of progression. For two-thirds of the UK LGBTQ community, it provokes fear of discrimination. But, for those that feel brave is a visual signifier of barriers being broken down. With Trump and May it is a complicated political power play.
Trump, a self-professed ‘clean hands freak’, has made hand holding a signature. Whether he’s shaking hands with Kim Jong-un or dodging Hilary Clinton and Angela Merkel’s hands, he’s made handshakes a way of exerting political dominance. He’s not the first to tackle the handshake ritual distinctively. Anna Wintour notoriously knocks away anyone going in for a shake, Bill Clinton called it 'the threshold act' of his presidency in his novel, Primary Colors, while Sir Richard Branson is said to have 'the world’s limpest handshake'.
It would be easy to apply the zero-logic philosophy that the US president lives by to his hand-holding, but his celebrity has been chased by the constant presence of paws. Whether his ‘small hands’ are being joked about or his ‘grabbing’ of pussy is causing shockwaves, it's impossible to ignore the power in Trump's hands.