Ben Lowry: The US and UK governments limp forward from crisis to crisis

U.S. President Donald Trump arrives at Danang International Airport, Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. His administration goes from crisis to crisis. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
U.S. President Donald Trump arrives at Danang International Airport, Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. His administration goes from crisis to crisis. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Something remarkable is happening on both sides of the Atlantic.

The US federal government limps from crisis to crisis, and the UK government is doing the same.

Prime Minister Theresa May, whose governement is so weak if could fall before Brexit in March 2019. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Prime Minister Theresa May, whose governement is so weak if could fall before Brexit in March 2019. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

The causes for the difficulties are different, but not unrelated.

In America, the problem is that Donald Trump’s administration is mired in scandals and upheaval.

He was already an outsider who knew nothing about governing, and made that a point of pride.

But he has struggled to retain any key staff, let alone experienced one. Meanwhile, relations with his own Republican Party in Congress are strained to breaking point.

In a discussion at the recent Mount Stewart Conversations, run by the BBC and National Trust, Professor Richard English of Queen’s University and the Dublin based commentator Fintan O’Toole disagreed on whether Mr Trump would win a second term: Mr English thought he might well do, while Mr O’Toole thought his incompetence was so apparent that he would not.

I sympathise with both views.

The incompetence is so egregious, so clear, so comical that it is hard to see how Mr Trump can survive. And yet his base seems to remain fully behind him.

In Britain, the problem is, at first sight, quite different. Theresa May’, whatever her shortcomings, is nothing like Mr Trump.

Her difficulty is the disastrous general election result has fatally undermined her authority, at the very point the UK embarks on one of its most complicated ever manoeuvres, disentangling itself from the EU. This would be hard even if she had a large majority, but is almost impossible now that she is presiding over a split party and is dependent on 10 DUP MPs.

Meanwhile, the sex scandal has diverted further Downing Street energy away from Brexit.

An early general election, perhaps before the March 2019 exit date, seems to get ever more likely.

The common threat between the transatlantic problem is the blue collar dissatisfaction that led to Brexit, and then the Trump win.

• Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor

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