Most trusted partner or ‘abusive lout’. Both have, respectively, been used to describe the US and its President, Donald Trump, in the past few days.
We must try as best we can to differentiate between the two things, but when the President stands in our capital city and lets off a political hand grenade, that becomes impossible.
So much for sovereignty when so many seemed happy to stand by and, worse, pat him on the back, for slating the Prime Minister – no matter what her shortcomings.
Row: US President Donald Trump has thrown a grenade into the Brexit talks
His bludgeoning intervention has been leaped on by those who agree as an endorsement of their own beliefs – just as former President Barack Obama’s comments were by the other side two years ago.
Yes, some delight in this global Lord of Misrule who says what he thinks – although I would argue he actually says whatever he likes, which isn’t quite the same thing.
His comments were met by weary groans in boardrooms across the country. It’s a shame – even if he did belatedly dismiss his own comments as ‘fake news’.
Because for the first time since June 2016, business has seen a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. In what will undoubtedly become the theme of the next eight months, it feels like we’ve just taken a step forwards and have then been blown back a dozen more by Trump’s wild outburst.
His volte-face will matter little to the wreckers of Theresa May’s Brexit White Paper with a little more courage to press ahead with upsetting a finely balanced agreement.
This week promises more of the same, with all-out rebellion planned in a campaign to undermine May. It seems businesses have little choice but to carry on and either hope for the best for what has become their unlikely champion – or plan for the worst.
Thank goodness Parliament goes into recess next week and MPs can take their extended holiday. The rest of us can be assured of a break – we can at least hope.
BACK in the real world, Archie Norman last week continued to deliver his 5,000-volt wake-up call to Marks & Spencer.
It’s a ‘burning platform’, the company’s chairman said, in a valiant effort to wake staff up to the realities of the modern retail world and break a culture of complacency. The pace of change is ever faster in a sector more used to the certainty of giant stores in grand buildings that you could be forgiven for thinking have been there forever.
Nothing of the sort, one senior high street boss told me last week. In a sign of things to come, voice apps will be the big change in shopping habits this Christmas (yes, I know it’s only July, but that’s what retailers are fretting about) as the digital savvy skip the bother of even typing their shopping lists into their proliferating digital devices. It’s an illustration of how little effort they are likely to put into buying your gift.
Business consultancy OC&C Strategy released a report earlier this year bullishly predicting that voice shopping – driven by that giant tank on every retail lawn, Amazon – will grow to a whopping $40 billion-plus (£30 billion) in 2022 across the US and the UK, up from $2 billion today. In a world where shop leases used to be 25 years long as standard, that’s a blink of an eye. It’s no wonder Archie – who wants to close 100 stores by then – is using such startling language. The digital revolution has already arrived and it will give no quarter.