The Trump Arms: Inside the London pub that changed its name in honour of the president's UK visit

UK

Don’t worry Mr President, some people want you to visit us.

Tens of thousands of people may be planning to take to the streets of London in protest when you arrive next Friday.

There may be demonstrations planned in Belfast, in Dundee, and in Grimsby; in Canterbury, Leamington Spa and Glasgow, in Southampton and … put it this way Donald: think of a moderately sized UK town or city. It’s holding a protest against you.

But don’t worry.

Because in one small corner of the capital, one small group of west Londoners like you so much they have renamed their entire pub after you.

Yes, for the duration of your visit, Mr President, the Jameson in Hammersmith shall be known as The Trump Arms.

There will be a grand opening on Friday, an all-day, £32-a-head party on Saturday: American style burgers, just the way you reportedly like to eat them in bed, with a pint of stout if you wish, or some Trump-themed cocktails if you prefer something a bit more fruit-based and Mar-A-Lago.

In Parliament Square Gardens, the protesters will be flying a six-metre long blimp depicting you as a nappy-wearing orange baby.

But at the Trump Arms, Hammersmith, they will be rolling out the red carpet for you. (One of the regulars owns an “event carpeting” business).

Inside The Trump Arms

So come in.  Admire the interior bedecked with Stars and Stripes and Union Jack bunting, salute the flag in the parlour and note the Make America Great Again hat behind the bar, nestling beside a red trilby lined with little flags of St George.

Meet the landlord: affable, Irish-born, Brexit-supporting Damien Smyth.

The 52-year-old would like you and the American public to know, especially as we prepare for those post-Brexit trade deals, that some in London, want to offer you – as the banner outside his pub now says – “a very warm welcome.”

Damien Smyth, landlord of The Trump Arms

“He’s a massive Trump fan,” the regulars say, “And quite a character.”

In fact the Trump Arms does seem to be attracting quite a few “characters” these days.

When The Independent popped in for a lunchtime chat we bumped into Gawain Towler, ex-head of press for Ukip.  He’s offering a bit of friendly PR advice for the forthcoming Trump Arms festivities.

“It’s a jolly wheeze,” he says, “A bit of fun. It’s quite fun to cock a snook, to give a small counter-blast against the essentially false narrative that everybody in London disapproves of a visit by the head of state of our biggest ally.

“What’s wrong with us?” adds Mr Towler, referring to those protesting against Mr Trump. “Post-Brexit we are going to want a trade deal with him. The protests are a spasm of unbelievable self-indulgence from people behaving like spoilt children.”

Mr Towler knows Mr Smyth a little, but he’s mainly here because of his mate Patrick Sullivan, the chief executive of the Parliament Street think tank. 

Mr Sullivan, it transpires, is the co-organiser with Mr Smyth of the Trump Arms celebrations.

Thanks to him, Friday’s mainly invitation-only grand opening will, Mr Sullivan says, be attended by Trump supporters and people from “various conservative groups”.  

There will be people from the Bow Group, a conservative think tank, and from the Bruges Group, which credits itself with having “spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union”.

Thousands may be planning to protest against him, but there is one place in the UK where a friendly welcome is assured 

But the all-day party on Saturday will be a far more down-to-earth affair, because after all, “Trump is actually more in tune with the British people than the British political class are.”

“I’m hugely excited,” admits Mr Sullivan, 32. “We’re standing up for the silent majority of Britons. We’re showing Trump that, actually, the British people do support him, and the rioters don’t speak for all of us.”

Err, the rioters?  Which rioters, The Independent wonders, is Mr Sullivan talking about, fully seven days before Mr Trump lands?

“The protesters,” explains Mr Sullivan.  “I call them rioters because they are basically rioting.  And it’s more of a colourful way of putting it.  A lot of those demonstrating are professional protesters who will march against everything.”

And now that’s cleared up, it just remains to talk about matters like “pussy grabbing” comments and putting child migrants in cages.

“Firstly,” says Mr Sullivan, “I don’t think that’s what Trump stands for.  And you don’t have to agree with everything to see he’s made the world safe again.  He was the guy who knew how to get Kim Jong-un to the negotiating table.”

He promoted women when he was in business, adds Mr Sullivan, and when the “problems” emerged with his immigration policy, he fixed them.

“He is a bit rough around the edges, but a lot of people like the fact that he isn’t a politician, he’s real. That’s what I hear in this pub.”

It’s fair to say that Mr Sullivan likes what he hears in this pub. He’s loved it ever since he first visited. 

“I heard Damien talking about Trump and my ears perked up,” recalls Mr Sullivan fondly. “Damien said: ‘Everybody here loves Trump’. They were all Brexit, all Trump.”

Although that isn’t quite correct.  There is one (mildly) dissenting voice. It’s American.

“I’m not a Trump supporter,” says Susan Walsh, 53, an art consultant from New Jersey who has been living in the UK since 1996. “He’s not to my taste. I don’t think he’s as racist or as sexist as everyone thinks, but it’s fair to say he’s not very stately.”  

That said, Ms Walsh does add: “My parents are Trump supporters, and they love what Damien is doing.  They think it’s gutsy.  And it’s his pub, it’s his right to do what he wants in it.”

And when the charming Mr Smyth says she’ll be welcome regardless of her political allegiances, Ms Walsh readily agrees to come to the Trump Arms party.

Not everyone can be so easily persuaded.

“There have been people phoning the pub and calling me a Nazi,” says Mr Smyth.  

But, he adds, the half a dozen or so abusive calls have been far outweighed by those phoning to offer support: from Coventry and Basildon, and also from Chicago and Bulgaria.

He anticipates some 300 people attending the party, and he’s expecting a classy crowd.

“The enquiries have been coming from well-educated, progressive kids with good jobs in the city. They are bright, they are intelligent and they admire what Trump has been doing.

“And they are not the old folk.  They are in the 25-35 and 40 age group.”    

In a quieter moment, one regular does express concern that “a bit of fun at the friendliest family pub I have ever known” might be disrupted by anti-Trump troublemakers.

Not Mr Smyth.  

“I have had to deal with some fellas over the years,” says the physically imposing landlord, “And the police are only a phone call away.”  

As for anyone calling him a Nazi, “I just feel sorry for the poor fella saying it.  He clearly doesn’t know me.”

As for Mr Trump: “He’s brash and he’s bullish but he’s a businessman – he gets things done.”

In the same way that he wouldn’t let violent drunks into his pub, he says, Mr Trump can’t be expected to allow just any kind of immigrant to enter his country by whatever illegal means. Yes, the ‘pussy grabbing’ remarks were “disgraceful”, but it was locker room talk – or the kind of meaningless banter you sometimes hear in pubs.

“I have spent a long time looking at all sorts of fellas from behind a bar,” says Mr Smyth, “And I’ve never yet found one who is ten out of ten perfect.”

And in fact, there is a lot that the landlord of the Trump Arms admires about Trump.

Mr Trump, folding his arms (EPA)

 “We have to have huge respect for this man,” says Mr Smyth, “And for the sacrifices he has made.  

“He didn’t need to become president. He was already a billionaire. But he sacrificed his lifestyle, he gave up a huge amount of freedom to help his country and help the world.”

All the more reason, then, for the American people to know that in one corner of London at least, their president has friends.

“The American people are our greatest friends in the world,” says Mr Smyth. “And we will need to do a trade deal with them very soon.  

“We can’t have this carry on where all the American people see of their president’s visit is 50,000 people demonstrating against the man they democratically elected.  And he was democratically elected.”

And whatever noises Mr Trump may be making about tariffs right now, in Mr Smyth’s view we are better off dealing with the US than with the EU.

“Look at what Mr Cameron got when he went to them before the referendum asking for concessions,” says Mr Smyth.  “They laughed and sent him home like a little schoolboy.

“With the group of 27 you need translators, everyone has their own view, and it takes ten years to make an agreement.

“With the British, the Irish, the Americans and the Canadians … Those four fellas can sit around a table, make a deal in half an hour and go for a pint afterwards.” 

Some might disagree with such analysis. But they can surely share Mr Smyth’s sentiments about how the two sides of the argument should handle the president’s visit.

“They can have their anti-Trump parties,” he says, “And we can have our event.  We are all decent human beings and we can all agree to differ.”

It is an interesting statement, one that makes you wonder. The landlord of the Trump Arms may admire Mr Trump, but does he really think like him?

Leave a Reply