More than four hundred of my fellow East Lothian residents have done something I find deeply unsettling. They have, along with over half a million other British citizens, signed a petition on the Parliament website calling for a leading Republican Presidential candidate to be barred from entering the United Kingdom. The petition to have Donald J. Trump banned from the UK has over five times the number of signatories required to be considered by Parliament and has been the focus of equal parts genuine enthusiasm and sarcastic eye-rolling in the past week.
The petition, created by one Suzanne Kelly, calls for Mr Trump to be prevented from entering the UK on the grounds that other individuals have been similarly prevented from doing so on "hate speech" grounds. While attracting in excess of 100,000 signatures means that the petition can be "considered" there is - it should be made clear - little to no chance of it ever being taken seriously or acted upon. While some may salivate at the mere thought of banning Mr Trump from the UK; his position as a prominent candidate and his very remote chance of actually becoming the President of the United States make this a practical impossibility. It's just not going to happen.
Mr Trump is a complete waste of space. His comments on Muslims, migrants and other marginalised groups are deplorable, ill informed and unbefitting of his position. He carries himself with the bizarre mix of insecurity and over-confidence more commonly seen in the school bully and there is an ugly cynical tone to his politics to the point where I seriously question his opinion of his own country, or at least his opinion of many of his fellow Americans. His rhetoric is the very worst in shameless cliché and, worse still, he is complicit in the continuing ruination of the great Republican Party with which I have a strong intercontinental solidarity.
What was, and should still be, the world-leading advocacy for conservative values, morality and pragmatism is being bogarted by the hairless Sugar Puff Monster and that's just plain sad. Furthermore, if we conservatives think Trump is awful now, wait until he's the reason that we have another Clinton Presidency on our hands. That's how frightening Trump is for conservatives around the world - he could give us President Hillary.
In short, I do not like him and America deserves much better.
However, all the horrible things that this oaf has said, from advocating a wall along America's southern border to banning Muslims from coming to America, do not justify the sinister impulse to ban him from coming to the United Kingdom. The reason for this has, in fact, very little to do with 'The Donald' himself. He's just the latest pseudo-provocateur who manages to unite the British political spectrum as we all exchange judgemental 'where's this guy's carer?' looks. We've experienced moronic cranks before and we'll experience them again, admittedly he's an interesting crank but still, he's just boilerplate when it comes to residents of Crazytown - best known for their roaring trade in bat poop and boxes of frogs.
I'm concerned about what the desire to ban Donald Trump says about us Brits and how seriously we take our principles? My fear is that it says nothing good and my conviction is that we're better than that.
Two values have always made me incredibly proud to be from this damp, green plot we call Great Britain - our insistence on freedom of speech and our dedication to frank debate. If we were to ban Mr Trump from Britain we would be letting down the generations of our forefathers who fought to keep us as a free and welcoming society, regardless of the level of madness of the individual being welcomed.
While our right to freedom of expression, regardless of how heinous the view, is not codified as neatly or as cleanly as that of our American cousins it is still as steadfastly and uncompromisingly held in Britain. We may have no First Amendment guaranteeing our right to be nasty, offensive, disrespectful or rude to one another but we do have centuries of convention, tradition and custom that make the right to do so almost more real. If we are to live up to this legacy and deserve our heritage, carefully passed down to us by generations past, then we must resist the temptation to ban, censor and block speakers like Mr Trump.
We also owe it to ourselves to permit his ingress to the UK on the grounds that it demonstrates our fine British commitment to robust, no-holds-barred debate. Britain is, as we should all remember, the home of the Mother of Parliaments and has always stood as an example of the best in confrontational debate. I understand the desire to create a safe, environment where no one has his or her feelings hurt and that this is the impulse behind this petition but it is a desire we should know better than to kowtow to. If I can't convince you on the basis of the principle of robust debate then imagine Mr Trump and his manufactured maverick style standing before a room of cynical, hard-nosed, argumentative, obstinate Brits and trying to defend himself - he would last longer being water-boarded.
Essentially, the desire to ban Mr Trump says nothing about him and says everything about the signatories. It's not that we owe him and his unconvincing hairpiece a single damn thing, we owe him no respect nor do we owe him any pleasantries. However, we do owe centuries of well-developed British principles and traditions, built on free speech and robust debate, better than taking the easy way out. We shouldn't just let Mr Trump come here, we should insist on it and then enjoy the intellectual bloodbath that would follow.Suggest a correction