Donald Trump, billionaire New York property mogul and surprise front-runner in the race to be the next Republican candidate in the White House, has seriously pissed off the U.K. recently.
After he called for a ban on all Muslims entering the U.S. until the authorities could “figure out” their attitudes, an online petition was launched calling for Trump to be banned from entering the U.K. (His comments that London had become “so radicalised” the city’s police force are “afraid for their own lives” and there are “no-go zones” probably didn’t help his case.)
To date, over 570,000 people have signed the petition, which is more than enough to trigger a debate in Parliament on whether Trump should be prevented from entering the U.K.
And that debate took place today.
Prime Minister David Cameron doesn’t often intervene in U.S. politics, but he made an exception to call Trump’s comments “divisive, stupid and wrong”. However, he said he did not support a ban, because the mogul would “unite us all against him” if he visited the U.K.
Home Secretary Theresa May does have the power to stop people from entering the U.K. because of things they have said, but the Home Office says she does not use these powers lightly — only “if she considers their presence in the U.K. to be non-conducive to the public good” or if they are people who “seek to harm our society and who do not share our basic values”.
People who have been banned from entering the U.K. include Florida pastor Terry Jones, who gained notoriety for trying to organise a Koran-burning protest, white supremacist Don Black and Safwat Hegazy, a controversial Egyptian preacher.
Unfortunately for those who don’t want Trump to set foot on British soil again, today’s debate didn’t end in a ban. It took place in a side chamber — not the Commons chamber, where British laws are made — and there wasn’t a vote at the end of it.
Paul Flynn, the veteran Labour MP who proposed today’s motion, said he doesn’t want to see Trump banned. Instead, he wants to “invite him to show me where the no-go areas are in Britain and have a discussion about why in the U.K. we have fewer gun shot deaths per year than America has per day.
“Perhaps we can have a stroll down to Brixton to have a look at the racial harmony there,” he added.
“If we are seen as a group of left-wingers opposing Trump it could have the reverse effect to the one the petitioners want,” said Flynn, while stressing that he wanted the debate to go ahead to give a voice to everyone who signed the petition to ban Trump from the U.K. Over 40,000 people have signed a counter-petition, stating that it would be “illogical” to ban Trump.
During the debate, MPs voiced their disgust at Trump’s comments — regardless of whether they supported a ban or not.
“If you do visit this country, take time to visit the Mosques,” said Conservative MP Dr Sarah Wollaston. “Take time to reflect on how dangerous that kind of rhetoric is.”
Another Tory MP, Alex Chalk, said Mr Trump’s comments “must be met with the classic British response of ridicule.”
SNP MP Anne McLaughlin pointed out the hypocrisy of Mr Trump, who is himself the son of a Scottish immigrant, saying, “The Mexican migrants that Trump so roundly defamed are engaged in the same quest as his forebears.”
Labour MP Keir Starmer said, “We are uniting in condemning the comments of Donald Trump on Muslims and women. I want to send a message that we value our Muslim communities.”
The former Director of Public Prosecutions said the Home Secretary’s ability to ban people “is a power that should be applied equally to everybody, whatever their wealth and power”, but he added that while Trump’s comments are “shocking, offensive and disturbing”, he didn’t believe it merited a ban “at this point in time.”
One public figure who does support a ban is former SNP leader Alex Salmond, who has had a long-running feud with Trump and recently called him “an embarrassment to Scotland”. After his Muslim comments, Trump was stripped of his status as a business ambassador for Scotland by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
On Sunday, Salmond told the BBC, “My view is that, yes, I would probably ban ‘The Donald’ because it would do him some good. He wants to ban all Muslims from the U.S. I want to ban all Donald Trumps from Scotland.”
During the three-hour debate, Trump — who was giving a speech in Virginia today and made no reference to the Westminster debate — was labelled a “buffoon, demagogue and wazzock” by MPs.
He may not have been banned, but Trump definitely shouldn’t expect a warm welcome the next time he decides to visit the U.K.