Forget the Donald – Melania Trump deserves a warm welcome in Britain

She is America’s secret weapon: a PR triumph waiting to happen

Sean O'Grady
Thursday 12 July 2018 16:44 BST
Excruciating moment Melania refuses to hold Donald Trump's hand before finally giving in

What is Donald Trump’s greatest asset? His charm, maybe – though it is rarely glimpsed. His business acumen? Opinions are divided. His multifarious qualities as a “strong and stable genius”, a self-description he repeated at the Nato Summit? His social media skills?

No. Come off it. Donald Trump’s greatest asset is Melania Trump. In 1998, when he dumped the gloriously-named Celina Midelfart to go out with the fragrant Melanija Knavs, he chose well. On the other hand, I can’t think what first attracted her to the multi-billionaire property magnate.

In any case, she arrives in Britain a welcome First Lady. At the very least, she takes the edge off her husband’s abrasive personality. She seems intelligent and not unkind, and makes it her business to make friends, while her husband enjoys winding up supposed friends and allies.

I suspect this former model will be a huge hit with the Duke of Edinburgh, for example, and Philip May has been out to buy a new suit specially. If she is as quietly diplomatic as I suspect, it is sorely required at such a critical time in transatlantic relations.

It is said that Trump listens to Melania, and one can only pray that this is indeed the case. It would be surprising if she didn’t say something to Donald about the way his administration was treating child immigrants – her office certainly issued a statement to that effect.

On her visit to London – she will be spending time in the capital while her husband stays as far away as possible – she may look up at the Trump baby blimp floating in the azure sky.

She more than anyone knows quite how appropriate that caricature is. She may smile as she recognises him way up there, as one of the few people to have seen the president in, one imagines, a pair of voluminous white undercrackers, reminiscent of giant nappy. She will have seen the real thing.

She will be visiting some kids and talking about the campaign Be Best, which, with no trace of irony, fights cyberbullying and battles for internet civility. Very First Lady; very routine.

Yet there is so much more that this First lady could do. She is America’s secret weapon: a PR triumph waiting to happen. Look at what Meghan Markle has done for the British royal family – she’s an international sensation. Yet all we get is images of Melania holding hands (or not) as she gets on and off planes with the president and smiling (or not).

As a woman, as an immigrant, as someone who has had to work for a living and make a little money of her own; as someone who has taken on the media (she got $2.9m off the Daily Mail and the MailOnline), Melania would have plenty to say about plenty of topics.

Not political stuff in the party political sense, but maybe more than motherhood and apple pie too.

Hillary Clinton, who was once a First Lady, showed how it could be done – though taking on health policy during her husband’s presidency was probably going too far. Michelle Obama was a huge hit wherever she went, and made the most of her popularity with campaigns about healthy eating and women’s rights. Eleanor Roosevelt became a global stateswoman in her own right, and for long after the death of FDR.

So I would remind the protesters who are planning to disrupt Trump’s visit to the UK that it is unfair to attack his wife, who could be such a force for good in our relations with America.

It is an especially bad idea to make noisy protests into the night. Clearly she likes to get her beauty sleep.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in