Tories on high alert for Trump intervention
Air Force One touched down in Stansted last night, kickstarting a nervous week for the Conservative election campaign.
With Donald Trump in town for a summit of Nato leaders, Tory HQ is on high alert over fears that the outspoken US president may make comments that could be seen as interfering in the UK election process — and which might hurt the party’s solid polling lead.
As the FT’s Sebastian Payne, George Parker and Jim Pickard report, British officials have urged Mr Trump not to intervene in the election campaign by endorsing Mr Johnson.
This is partly because Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has cast the prime minister as being in the White House’s pocket, notably on a possible post-Brexit UK-US trade deal. But ministers know the president is highly unpredictable.
“We’re watching his Twitter feed and waiting for the inevitable comments,” said one UK minister, referring to Mr Trump.
We’ve tried to make it clear to the White House that Trump shouldn’t say anything about Corbyn or Brexit, but he probably can’t help himself.
Downing Street has been careful to avoid opportunities for Mr Johnson and Mr Trump to be seen together during the Nato summit, which takes place on Wednesday. No UK-US press conference is currently arranged, nor has a bilateral meeting been confirmed between the two.
But Mr Trump’s visit is not the only thing weighing on Conservative officials. Friday’s head-to-head TV debate between Mr Johnson and Mr Corbyn could boost Labour and there is a risk the Liberal Democrat vote could collapse, enabling Labour to hold on to the seats targeted by the Conservatives.