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Saving The Special Relationship

Saving The Special Relationship

By Michael Lach, PHA Public Affairs


Trump May Holding Hands - Special Relationship

Image Courtesy of;


Donald Trump has been President for little over a week, but there has already been significant political change. In that time Theresa May held hands with the new President at the White House, mass protests broke out in London and the UK in relation to Trump’s controversial immigration policy, and 1.5 million people signed a petition in protest against Trump receiving a state visit.

These events mark the significant problems that Theresa May’s government face with Donald Trump.  On the one hand, Trump has been hugely supportive of Brexit, has spoken positively of his “Scottish roots”, moved Winston Churchill’s bust back into the Oval Office and talked up his wish to quickly secure a trade deal with the United Kingdom. This has reassured many within the Government that the so-called special relationship will flourish.

Thousands of people gathered in cities across the UK this evening, including Glasgow, Manchester, Edinburgh and Cardiff, to voice their opposition to Donald Trump’s travel ban targeting several Muslim majority countries. Take a look at the powerful scenes from London in our latest Instagram Story. Photo: @eleni.stefanou

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On the other hand, Trump has shown himself to be volatile and controversial. His recent executive order preventing refugees from entering the US has resulted in his reputation amongst the British hitting rock bottom, with 10,000 protestors demonstrating outside Downing Street with just a day’s notice. The Prime Minister has also come under criticism for not being quick enough to denounce Trump’s Immigration ban, instead simply stating “the United States immigration policy is a matter for the United States”.

In reality, Trump’s Presidency represents a dangerous balancing game. If handled well, May could create a strong relationship with the United States, akin to the Reagan and Thatcher days. Furthermore, a potential US-UK trade deal would be hugely beneficial to the UK economy going forward and would be a threat to the European Union who Trump has denounced multiple times.

Actor Shia LaBeouf has been released following his arrest earlier this week at an anti-Trump art installation in New York. The "He will not divide us" installation aims to run for as long as President Trump is in office. People who pass by are invited to visit @movingimagenyc to deliver the words "he will not divide us" into a mounted outdoor camera, repeating the phrase as many times and for as long as they wish. Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

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However, if this relationship can only be achieved by May curtailing to every single one of Trump’s whims and wishes, and refusing to steadfastly oppose the policies he puts in place, she will face severe criticism in both the press and her party in the UK.

Coincidentally, however, if May decides to actively disagree with any controversial policies that President Trump might pursue, it could jeopardise any positive future relationships, trade deals, or cooperation on other important issues (e.g. NATO, intelligence sharing, etc.) that the UK might hope to work with the United States on.

Ultimately, it can be argued that whatever route May and the government take there will inevitably be pitfalls attached.  For the Prime Minister, the only option available to avoid damaging her relationship with the notoriously thin-skinned President is to somehow craft a personal friendship with him. This will allow her to challenge him on policy objectives whilst protecting British interests with the United States.

Theresa May Donald Trump White House Meeting

Image Courtesy of;

Hillary Clinton and her Presidential PR

Hillary Clinton, The PHA Group

‘Image courtesy of kansieo on Flickr’

Hillary Clinton is running for president.

It is no shocking revelation but her approach to the campaign and the long run to November 2016 is something to watch carefully.

Over the years Clinton has worked hard in a number of often-conflicting roles. She has had to progress from dignified and dutiful First Lady to dominant and successful Secretary of State and now must present herself as a darling of the left whilst remaining centrist enough to win over more conservative voters when the Primaries are over and done. Clinton has spent each of these roles collecting contrasting PR images. All of which now need to be combined into one election-winning persona whilst doing the hardest thing of all: appearing human.


First Lady of the United States

Even before her husband was elected Clinton was an influential person in his life and politics.

'Image courtesy of InSapphoWeTrust on Flickr'

‘Image courtesy of InSapphoWeTrust on Flickr’


While Bill Clinton served as Governor of Arkansas, Hillary continued to work as a lawyer and take on an active philanthropic role. During the Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign Clinton was often referred to as “Lady Macbeth” referencing her role as a key member of her husband’s political circle.

She is considered to be second only to Eleanor Roosevelt when it comes to influential First Ladies (and perhaps now Michelle Obama).

Neatly balancing her advocacy for children and healthcare with advising her husband and assisting with the implementation of diplomatic strategy, as First Lady those surrounding her sought to ensure Clinton always came across as feminine. They knew, and she knew, that she needed to play up to the image that was expected of her in order to wield influence.


United States Senator and Secretary of State

As a Senator, Clinton built relationships across both parties.

During the Iraq war, she spent time abroad visiting soldiers and advocating for benefits for veterans.

As secretary of state Clinton once again showed that she was a formidable sparring partner for US friends and foes alike.

She played a crucial role in the Obama administration with a number of crucial successes: the response to Afghanistan, the US response to the Arab Uprisings and the decision over whether to raid the Osama bin Laden compound. Consequently, Clinton’s image progressed and developed from the educated and advisory First Lady to an efficient and ruthless politician.

Presidential Candidate

Clinton needs to build on her image as a strong and capable leader that she has shown over her time in politics, as she is now required to do something far more difficult that being competent.

She has to be human.

Running as a political legacy has its benefits and it drawbacks. It allows Clinton to point to a past success record that will show her strong suits when it comes to health, education and even foreign policy decisions. She can prove that she is a resilient leader with experience at the height of American politics.

Recent polls showed that 84% of people in both Iowa and New Hampshire thought that Clinton had the foreign policy experience to navigate a dangerous world whereas her closest opponent Bernie Sanders polled at just 3%. The same poll showed that in New Hampshire 67% of people thought that Clinton knew how to get things done in Washington however only 34% in the same state thought that the front-runner as authentic.

If Clinton wins the Democratic nomination and goes on to beat whoever the Republican candidate is, whether it be Florida Senator Marco Rubio or fellow political legacy Florida Senator Jeb Bush or any one of the 11 others that have declared, she needs to present herself as the human candidate, to create a balance between her personal and professional personae.

In order to help soften her image, Clinton has hired Kristina Schake, the woman who ‘softened’ Michelle Obama. During Barak Obama’s 2008 campaign Michelle Obama was criticized for some of her comments and her tough woman image.

It is unfortunate that in order to win elections in the United States women have to appear feminine and “soft”.

The real tragedy is that Clinton is qualified for the job of President of the United States. More than qualified.

She has served in the White House; it has never been a secret that she often influenced her husband’s decisions while in office. She has served in Congress as a Senator with a wide scope of influence on a range of committees. She has served on the Cabinet in one of the most demanding jobs that exist.

But sadly that is not enough.

Clinton looks to have learned a lot from her 2008 presidential run. This time she seems to have taken on the criticism from a senior advisor who suggested that her biggest mistake was missing the opportunity to show her softer side. Now seeking to run a simple campaign, with the help of Ms Schake, she hopes to humanize the Clinton image and make ‘real people’ relate to the presidential hopeful.

Running as a democrat Clinton may gain traction in the polls as the first woman to do so.


But she also has to appeal to the ordinary American who tends to be more conservative.

Clinton is already stressing her commitment to the family making it one of her 4 key pledges for the campaign while ensuring that LGBT rights among other liberal stand points fall under the same umbrella.

Clinton has a long way to go. Not only to winning the Democratic nomination, but also to the White House.

As a candidate with unparalleled experience and determination to get break the “highest and hardest glass ceiling”. There is hope that there will be a woman in the White House in the not too distant future.

Clinton knows how to play the game.

She knows that it is unfortunate that she has to appear as a wife and mother alongside her political ambitions. But she also knows that playing the system that exists may be the only way to change it.


Enter The World of Digital Diplomacy

We’ve come a long way since the first broadcast from the White House in 1947. Back then, Harry Truman was guiding his nation through post-war uncertainty and readying the state for a forty year fight with the ‘communist bugaboo’.

Fast forward half a century and Barack Obama is living in a distinctly different world. Those pesky commies may have been dispatched long before his climb to power, and the President now lives in an age where communication with ‘the people’ is only a tweet away.

The US president has 35 million Twitter followers, the fourth most popular account on the social network (behind Rihanna, Justin Bieber and Katy Perry) and regularly he updates the nation with nice sound-bites, personal photos and regular calls to action:


President Obama is not the only world leader on Twitter. A study by Twiplomacy found that three-quarters of all world leaders possess a Twitter account. That’s 153 countries in total and a combined following of 105 million!

Next in the Twitter league table comes Pope Francis. The head of the Catholic Church is a clear second with 7m followers, whilst Turkeys Recip Erdogan is a distant third with 3.5m. Big Dave Cameron, the UK’s Prime Minister is the 9th most popular head of state on the social network, with 2.3 million followers.

The list stretches all the way down to infant states to South Sudan, who have gathered a following of just over six thousand since gaining independence in 2011. For small nations such as South Sudan, Twitter offers a perfect means of communication. Unlike United Nations conferences and the like, Twitter offers a level playing field whereby South Sudan’s voice weighs just as much as Barack Obama’s.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: a diplomatic war could break out very easily if just one head of state sends an inappropriate, nuclear bomb of a tweet to a fellow leader.

But don’t worry, there’s no need to panic just yet. There are so far very little signs that Digital Diplomacy (Digiplomacy? You heard it here first) is taking off. Although 68% of Twitter’s world leaders connect with each other, very little interaction actually goes on.

So for the time being at least, you won’t see North Korea formally declaring war on the US via Twitter, Europe’s leaders publically discussing how to solve the Eurozone crisis, or Barack Obama creating a #GiveBackSnowden trend.

Nonetheless, it does show the power that social media possesses in the world (see 2011 Arab Spring). Twitter and Facebook are by some distance the easiest way for world leaders to talk to their people. It may all be a popularity contest at the moment, but we may not be too far away from a world in which Twitter overtakes television as the preferred medium for a President’s or Prime Minister’s acceptance speech or as the first stop for dealing with a scandal.