Back then I wrote that Donald Trump becoming US president would be seen as a bad joke. Yet its about to come true

At war with the US intelligence agencies he compares to Nazi Germany, damning them for leaking an unverified dossier on his alleged links with Moscow, Donald Trumps bizarre press conference left the world agog. What if the Russians have so well destabilised America that no sooner inaugurated, their choice chairperson must continue to be impeached? Dont count on it. Ordinary regulations dont apply to the man who is the raw spirit of the lawless wild west.

And Trumps nature was never a secret. He has never dissembled, he cant dissemble. Why would he when he adores every aspect of himself, each hair on his head, each term he tweets? Greater self-love hath no man.

Apart from his lost good looks, he is unchanged since I interviewed him for the Guardian back in 1988. He was 41 and in Britain to plug his volume, The Art of the Deal. Then as now, he was a petrifying megalomaniac with no grip on reality, or not a reality shared by others. At the time I described his demonic power and energy waiting to springtime. Now look how far he has sprung.

I wrote about his aura of glitz, greed, glamour and an aspiration so colossal that it will probably not rest until he rules the world which the working day he simply might. And next week, God help us, he will. But virtually 30 years ago was his eye already on operating for the presidency? I set the question to him. Not for a period but I am involved politically. You could do it from where I am, he replied with the same nonchalance he might describe making a pitch for some new property or casino in New York.

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Polly Toynbees interview with Donald Trump in 1988

What would his platform be? Respect. Were a second-rate economic power, a debtor nation. Were getting kicked around. His current determination to tear up Barack Obamas carefully brokered nuclear deal with Iran has a long history. He told me that as president, Id be harsh on Iran. Theyve been beating us psychologically, stimulating us look like a bunch of fools Itd be good for the world to take them on.

How will Britain fare? Though his boastful volume was a US bestseller, it had snooty reviews over here, as eminent British business people of the John Harvey-Jones type shuddered with revulsion at the cut-throat swagger of Trumps style. In his corporate bargains the other guy is always shafted, especially decent old-world types stupid enough to think a gentlemans word is his bond.

Trump was in London in the midst of Margaret Thatchers big bang, red bracings and loadsamoney mania years, yet his decision on Britain was this: Your countrys dislike for success is a national illnes. Bear that in mind as our government implore for a post-Brexit trade deal, with a Theresa May date not in Trumps diary. What kind of trade bargain does Liam Fox imagine he will broker with this man whose disdain for Britain, even back in its most Trumpish epoch, was so withering? Only as Trumps view on Iran is unchanged, I doubt he has formed any new views about Britain.

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My own assessment back then was: Hes sharp as a gold-plated razor-blade. Donald and Ivana Trump on their luxury yacht in 1988 Photo: Marty Lederhandler/ AP

The craven caperings of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson may amuse him, but the bargain is likely to be cut-throat. If you had doubts concerning the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership( TTIP ), just wait and consider what kind of deregulation, anti-working rights, anti-environmental, anti-product safety and food contamination rules he will enforce when he shakes hands with British gentlemen on their knees for anything they can get.

Britain stares at him across the Atlantic, aghast at this grotesque man-baby, this loud-mouth buffoon and braggart, but my own assessment back then was: Hes sharp as a gold-plated razor-blade. Never underestimate the power of a person without self-doubt. Never underestimate the power of a gargantuan appetite for possessing everything. If he was frightening back then, hes terrifying now.

That gigantic egotism is an Americanism with deep roots. Though not religious, Trump says he attends Marble Collegiate Church, home of the rightwing theology of Norman Vincent Peale a rector Ronald Reagan rewarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I recognised in Trump the strong affirmation he depicted from Peales bestseller The Power of Positive Thinking. Every atom of Trumps being is imbued with the Peale magical thinking that says only believe in yourself( not God , not self-sacrifice) and you can take whatever you want in the here and now , not the hereafter. I can imagine Trump chanting to himself daily in front of the mirror Peales famous mantra, Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better.

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