It is definitely easy to be drawn to the superficial resemblances. A Conservative female Prime Minister and an iconoclastic, show-biz US President, both of whom came to power in a wave of anti-elite sentiment, meeting to renew the old ties between their countries and try to form a duet to counter the chorus of groans from Europe and other leftist regions (e.g., Hollywood and all the the Americas south of Texas). In an article in USA Today this morning, Kim Hjelmgaard and Jane Onyanga-Omara grabbed this theme and announced that “Donald Trump [and] Theresa May are the 2017 version of ’80s power couple Reagan-Thatcher.”
Despite drawing parallels between Trump and Thatcher in The Wiring Diagram, I find comparisons between Trump and Reagan or Thatcher and May a bit of a stretch, and likewise comparisons between the two trans-Atlantic relationships. This mostly has to do with Prime Minister May, who so far has not survived a general election (she came to power through a change in leadership in the Conservative Party, which presently controls a majority in Parliament), and who seems to lack the clarity of Thatcher. Her comments today to Republicans in Philadelphia received mixed reviews: she’s either the new voice of a strong and independent UK, as tweeted by Nigel Farage, or she’s just another true believer, with a little Brexit sprinkled on top.
Even Hjelmgaard and Onyanga-Omara’s article ends with comments by Quentin Peel arguing that Trump and May are very different characters than their 80s counterparts, and that their relationship cannot be predicted yet. Peel does go on to say that they’ll need to be allies due to the shared isolation brought about by their paramount policies, although squaring this with the political power generated by those policies he does not do.
If this relationship does come to resemble Reagan-Thatcher, it may be with the roles reversed—Trump offering the brash, not-for-turning focus, and May following along. First, however, she needs to deliver on the issue that brought her to power (Brexit), and then demonstrate the moxie to win a general election.