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Melania Trump and Theresa May show some real fight. Better late than never

Barbara Ellen
·5-min read

Tread carefully, gentlemen, some women are at their most dangerous when they feel they have nothing to lose. In the US, that’s Melania Trump, freshly released from her role as First Grifter, who sashayed off a plane in Florida wearing a flowing patterned maxi-dress and comfy flats. It doesn’t matter that the dress was Gucci, retailing at thousands of dollars, you just know Donald would have hated it. Maybe they even squabbled about it on the plane (“That dress is a loser!”), but Melania wore it anyway. During Trump’s presidency, Melania got a reputation for “speaking her truth” via her clothing and that dress screamed “I’m outta here!”, as did the nuclear-strength stink eye she shot at her husband and the assembled media as she swanned past, refusing to engage.

Over here, Theresa May took another of her now-characteristic swings at Boris Johnson, with an article berating his government for “abandoning global moral leadership”. Here was May Unleashed, a different creature altogether from when she was stumbling through her own premiership on grey-faced “Brexit means Brexit” autopilot. May also criticised Trump’s role in the attack on the Capitol. That’s Trump, whose little paw she once so tenderly held when she was the first world leader to meet him in the White House in 2017. May terms this the “hand of friendship”, but, back then, it looked less like a meeting of equals and more like a video reconstruction of when Tinder goes horribly wrong for silver surfers (“Be safe out there!”).

How intriguing. Where were these self-styled avengers when we really needed them – when all that righteous glacial rage might have counted for something? We could have done with Theresa, Warrior Queen when she was in power. Instead, we got a PM too often reduced to baby-burping wailing, blustering Tory Brexit-ultras, at the expense of what she now terms “global Britain”. Similarly, at the time of “grab ’em by the pussy”, Melania allowed herself to be wheeled out as a trophy wife, a paragon of transactional marital virtue, to dismiss Trump’s dangerous misogynistic bilge as “boy’s talk”.

Related: Theresa May accuses Boris Johnson of 'abandoning global leadership'

Still, better late than never. Maybe both women learned the hard way that some toxic masculinity can only be countered with a timely (albeit belated) flourish of toxic femininity. Melania’s blank beauty queen mask has been ripped off to reveal the real woman beneath. Whatever deal she made with Trump appears to be over and she looks stronger already. May is clearly relishing her new calling as gobby backbench nightmare; I’m sure it’s merely coincidental that she’s wreaking Shakespearean levels of revenge against Johnson, who so gleefully shredded her every effort as PM.

So there we have it: one woman spent half a decade standing next to power, the other was actually in power, and yet both seem to feel more powerful now. Perhaps for some, post-power (all the fun and none of the consequences) is where it’s really at.

What is there to gripe about if Rufus Hound made us think?

Rufus Hound
Rufus Hound: don’t shoot the messenger. Photograph: Ian West/PA

Dare I even ask what drove people to complain about Rufus Hound? Asked how he felt about getting through to the next round of ITV’s Dancing on Ice, the comedian said: “We live in a world where the people we elect don’t want to feed hungry children, this is the least mad thing that’s happened to me in a long time.”

This sparked hundreds of complaints, which is confusing. I understand why Hound made his comments (“hungry children” is a clue), but why would people object?

Let’s be good little liberals and try to understand. Perhaps some felt it wasn’t the time or the place. That Hound was virtue-signalling on a light entertainment show and that he should park his bleeding heart and get on with what he’s been hired for: falling over on his celebrity arse for the amusement of the viewing public.

Then again, in this climate (pandemic, ongoing tussling over free school meals, the feeling that Marcus Rashford shouldn’t be left to tackle UK child food poverty alone), what would be an “appropriate” time and place to speak up? Perhaps it’s more pertinent to ask what kind of person, with what kind of mentality, goes to the time and trouble of registering a complaint about someone who’s trying to speak up for hungry children?

Come on Boris, back musicians and let the good times roll

Roger Daltrey:
Roger Daltrey: confused by Brexit? Photograph: Isabel Infantes/PA

This government isn’t “cool” about music. While New Labour hitched a ride with Britpop, could you see any of the Tory cabinet listening to music? Could you imagine Johnson, Patel, even “Dishy Rishi” strutting their funky stuff?

Perhaps this cultural disconnect partly explains the giant mess the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) is making of dealing with the needs of the music industry. live/touring elementsPerformance and touring are suffering horribly under the double whammy of Brexit and the pandemic, while government stalling/incompetence is exacerbating the problem.

While Glastonbury has been cancelled, other festivals and live events are stuck in a catch-22 regarding insurance. (DCMS demands firm dates for further aid, but organisers say this isn’t possible without government underwriting.) Elsewhere, the “musician’s passport” (allowing freedom of movement for European touring) was strangled at birth (by the UK!) during Brexit negotiations.

These are just two major flashpoints that could spell disaster for large sectors of the once-booming UK music industry. A letter about how musicians were “shamelessly failed” by the Brexit deal has been signed by more than 100 artists, including Elton John, Sting and (hilariously) Brexiter Roger Daltrey. To paraphrase a well-known lyric, I hope I die before I campaign for Brexit and then proceed to carp about Brexit.

It’s clear that this government has little empathy for how the business works. One could even accuse the government of overstating this befuddlement, in order to stall and obfuscate. The good news is that the government doesn’t need to fully understand the music industry or, God forbid, “get down with the kids”. It just needs to listen to industry professionals, who know exactly what is needed, and finally act.

  • Barbara Ellen is an Observer columnist