Belfast Telegraph

Lindy McDowell: Why Meghan should have played her part during Trump visit

The Queen and President Trump at the State Banquet in Buckingham Palace
The Queen and President Trump at the State Banquet in Buckingham Palace
Waitrose
Never mind Donald's potentially hurt feelings - is this blimp kind to the environment?

By Lindy McDowell

In this week of Trump and circumstance, did Meghan Markle miss a trick by not showing up for the state banquet to welcome the Leader of the Free World? It's one of the questions that occurs at the end of a week when the big debate, of course, centred round the controversial issue of whether or not the Queen - or to be more precise, the Government - was right to roll out the red carpet for the Orange One.

That question was comprehensively answered I think by the sight of that small band of the last survivors of D-Day, diminished by age but not by valour, paying tribute to their fallen comrades.

The state visit was about them. Not about Trump.

Yes, the Government could have invited him just to the anniversary event.

But how offensive would that have been to the American nation of which he is (whatever his flaws) head of state?

Many thousands of young Americans forfeited their lives and their futures to help defeat the most evil regime the world has ever known.

The special relationship between America and the UK that we talk so much about today was forged when President Roosevelt took the courageous decision to enter the war.

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This week was about rising above 21st century political sensitivities and recognising the heroism of the Allied troops - all of them - who delivered Europe from Hitler.

And it was a week in which the small, stooped figure of an ageing Queen towered above the ego of a strutting President.

Some people (hands up, I am often among them) argue that royalty does not always represent value for money. This week the royals proved their worth.

Donald Trump - and by extension his nation - were welcomed with real warmth. In terms of transatlantic outreach the royals are a class act. The Queen above all others.

Which brings us back to Meghan. The Duchess of Sussex did not attend the state banquet. She had the get-out clause of being on maternity leave, although showing up for Windsor lamb and Eton Mess would hardly have been too onerous. And yes, Trump had called her nasty. But Meghan, the daughter of one nation, the daughter-in-law of the royal family of the other, is in a unique position to rise above petty squabbles and personify that special relationship.

Had it been a different president - Hillary, say - would she have made an effort to have been at the banquet? I'd bet a Givenchy gown the answer would be yes.

We're told that Meghan envisages a role for Harry and herself as a "global power couple". Global power coupling has obviously come a long way since the days of Roosevelt and Churchill.

These days it's defined in more showbiz terms. It's Posh Spice promoting Brand Beckham. It's Kim and Kanye. It's all a bit trivial and frothy.

What was so very, very touching this week wasn't just the deportment of those old heroes, their eyes glistening with tears for young friends lost a lifetime ago.

It was watching world leaders like Macron of France, Trudeau of Canada, Prince Charles, Theresa May, the Queen and, yes, Trump too, openly swept by genuine emotion, humbled, moved in some cases to tears and collectively, momentarily anyway, united as one.

And amid them all, that great woman who is close to being Ms Markle's namesake. At the Portsmouth commemoration Angela Merkel of Germany sat among the heads of state, sombre and correct. It can't have been a comfortable occasion for her.

But her attendance was a symbol of the coming together of a new Europe determined to honour that old vow of Never Again.

Meghan could learn from Mrs Merkel's example. That sometimes the most powerful message comes from just being there.

President hits wall over border

Trump faux pas of the week. Even for a man famed for wild claims and balderdash, the president's confusion about the Irish border - and his talk of a wall - was a new notch in absurdity. Obviously he hasn't a clue. Diplomatic Leo Varadkar generously suggested Mr Trump couldn't be expected to be on top of all local issues. In which case, just button it Donald. We don't need you giving the impression you know nothing about Northern Ireland and its politics. We have Karen Bradley for that.

I hope the orange blimp is Green

Trump-related quote of the week. For me, it was a line from a portly commentator on TV attempting to describe how the Trump baby blimp, carried by protesters, wasn't as gargantuan as it might seem on screen. "It's not really that big," he noted. "I've had bigger lunches." And while we're on the subject of this smallish blimp... here's a big question. Is it eco-friendly? What's it made of? What sort of gas do they fill it with? Never mind Donald's potentially hurt feelings - is this blimp kind to the environment?

Binning of plastic could be fantastic

Upmarket store Waitrose (which we don't have here) is offering shoppers the opportunity to cut plastic by bringing along their own containers, bags and bottles to fill up with goods ranging from oats to vino.

Great idea. But like many great ideas it may struggle a bit in the execution.

The problem is we have become so totally dependent on plastic packaging. And we have become so because it served quite a few useful purposes for the big chains.

It kept food clean and easily stored. Consumers could see what they were getting. And it was a convenient means of flogging items in sizes and prices to suit shops' profits. Why let us pick up a couple of carrots when they could sell us a whole bagful?

Dispensing with plastic will take time. But we absolutely have to get rid of the stuff. It's one of the greatest man-made curses on the planet. So any small step to encourage consumers to use substitutes has to be welcomed.

The old cynic in me, however, is not entirely convinced that big business does these things because it is right and responsible. But because it is good PR.

They were the ones who sold us on plastic in the first place. That said, anything which changes this has to be a good thing.

Even if the motivation strikes the likes of sceptical old me as being, in itself, just a wee bit plastic.

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