Trump and McDonnell’s attendance at Davos is about power and politics
This time next week the great and the good of the business and political worlds will meet in Davos for the annual World Economic Forum (WEF).
Known as one of the most exclusive networking events on the planet, these days events in Davos may struggle to make global headlines.
The most newsworthy event of last year was the non-attendance of Donald Trump, less than a week after his inauguration. The US President’s absence left the way clear for his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to steal the headlines.
This year President Trump will be there, and is making a point of letting it be known he will be attending – the first US president to do so since Bill Clinton back in 2000 as it happens.
So too, will Britain’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell. The attendance of both men hints tantalisingly at a shift in policy and perhaps political position, and could yet prove the most newsworthy event to come out of the Summit.
Both men have stated their aversion towards something Davos famously celebrates – globalisation.
In his first year in office President Trump has pulled the US out of the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TTP), has taken a hard line in negotiations over redrafting the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) – even threatening to tear it up – and pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Change Accords.
Meanwhile, John McDonnell is an avowed Marxist. His lists the overthrow of Capitalism as one of his hobbies on his Who’s Who entry and once brandished a copy of Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book at former Chancellor George Osborne over the Dispatch Box, while suggesting Mr Osborne could learn a thing or two from Marx’s Das Kapital.
So why are they going to Davos? In the case of President Trump, it appears he is going to Davos largely to avoid the PR defeat of last year when China was feted by the great and the good. It may also simply be ego.
Closer to home, we know Mr McDonnell has been on a tea offensive in recent months, attempting to show businesses they have less to fear from a Labour government under his and Jeremy Corbyn’s stewardship than they think. It doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to assume that Mr McDonnell is attending Davos as part of his efforts to continue this PR campaign.
Ultimately, the attendance of Mr McDonnell is probably the more surprising, given his ideological principles.
During his campaign for the White House, President Trump was able to talk the language of blue collar workers in states like Pennsylvania thanks to the help of his election guru Steve Bannon. But, ultimately, he is still a businessman and will fit right in amid the dealmaking of Davos.
Quite what Mr McDonnell will make of Davos, or for that matter what Davos will make of him, is less clear. The two are certainly a less natural fit. But his decision to go shows the level of belief he has that Labour remains on the path to real power following last June’s general election.
That, more than anything, is probably the point of the trip.
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