Ron DeSantis critics gloat over ‘brutal’ reviews of his UK trip: ‘Horrendous, low-wattage, bored’

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is expected to soon announce his bid for US president, failed to make a favourable impression on UK power players during an international trade mission this week, according to reports.

The governor and his wife, after making stops in Israel, Japan and Korea, finished the trip in London, where he met with senior business figures at an event hosted by Lloyd’s, the world’s largest insurance marketplace – and where attendees told Politico they found the politician’s appearance to be lacklustre and even “low-wattage”.

“He had been to five different countries in five days and he definitely looked spent, but his message wasn’t presidential,” one businessperson told Politico. “He was horrendous.”

Ron DeSantis leaves the Foreign Office in London after meeting Britain's Foreign Secretary James Cleverly (AP)
Ron DeSantis leaves the Foreign Office in London after meeting Britain's Foreign Secretary James Cleverly (AP)

The event was attended by more than 50 representatives of UK firms and business lobbying groups, the outlet reported. Another business figure – who called the president’s behavior “low-wattage” – said: “Nobody in the room was left thinking, ‘this man’s going places ... It felt really a bit like we were watching a state-level politician. I wouldn’t be surprised if [people in attendance] came out thinking ‘that’s not the guy’.”

Mr DeSantis, however, is believed to be launching his campaign to be “the guy” next month in a bid to defeat former President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination. A veteran with a conservative track record and a charismatic, former journalist wife, the Florida father-of-three is seen by many within Republican circles as less polarising than the 45th president.

Opponents, however, gloated over the muted UK response to DeSantis.

“The reviews are in from DeSantis’ trip to Britain – and they are absolutely brutal,” anti-GOP group MeidasTouch tweeted to its one million followers, quoting the Politico story and its criticisms from one attendee that the governor “looked bored” and “stared at his feet”.

“DeSantis’ trip abroad was a complete and utter disaster from start to finish,” the tweet concluded.

It was the second overseas trade mission of his governorship, organized by the state’s economic-development agency, Enterprise Florida, and his office told the Miami Herald the trip came at no cost to the taxpayer, though his press secretary provided no details.

During the governor’s first trade mission to Israel in 2019, the paper reported, documents “showed that a major source of private funds for the governor’s previous trade mission in Israel came from 12 private donors, including a donor to the governor’s political action committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis,” the paper wrote. “It is unclear whether the financial dynamics will be the same for this year’s trade mission.”

DeSantis leaves the Lloyds Bank building in London after a meeting with business leaders (REUTERS)
DeSantis leaves the Lloyds Bank building in London after a meeting with business leaders (REUTERS)

The trip began in Japan, where Mr DeSantis and his wife were joined by Florida Secretary of Commerce Laura DiBella and Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd. The governor then travelled to Israel and Korea before ending the trip in the UK.

“The mission will build on economic relationships Florida has with each country, and the Governor will meet with business executives and government leaders to discuss ways in which Florida can expand economic partnerships,” the governor’s office said in a release announcing the trip on 20 April.

While Mr DeSantis may have come in for criticism at the Lloyd’s event, he also came under fire for another meeting – even thanks to a tweet from his own press secretary.

Posting a photo of his boss with Kemi Badenoch, the British Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – and a rising star on the right of the Conservative Pary – Mr Griffin wrote that Mr DeSantis had met the woman “who has been branded by British media as the ‘Anti-woke darling of the right.’

“Two great conservative fighters on mission.”

Another Twitter user took aim at the photo – not for its political content but, cheekily, for its aesthetic.

“THE MOST COMMON PROBLEM WITH MEN’S PANTS,” tweeted menswear writer Derek Guy, @dieworkwear.

“DeSantis’ outfit here illustrates one of the most common problems with pants – and the one that requires a bit of know-how to fix. So let’s talk about it,” he wrote, with the accompanying emoji of a spool of thread and a subsequent Twitter thread about how to achieve properly worn trousers.

While the British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly tweeted a picture of his meeting with Mr DeSantis, as did Ms Badenoch, the Florida governor’s account had not tweeted any pictures of his trip to the UK as of Saturday morning – although pictures of his trip to Israel had been featured.

The Independent has reached out to the governor’s office for comment.