THE BLOG

The United States Has A Really Nasty Virus

07/02/2017 17:07 | Updated 07 February 2017
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There's an old saying that when America sneezes, the UK catches a cold. Right now America has a really nasty virus and we need to stop this contagion from becoming an epidemic that may lead to a pandemic from which the free world may never recover.

Sadly, we in the UK are vulnerable to the Trump virus because of Brexit. The divisions created by the debate make us vulnerable. Theresa May cosying up to Trump at the White House is a sign of our weakness after Brexit.

On the plus side there is the outrage provoked by President Trump's travel ban against seven countries. It has been condemned in this country and around the world, this shameful executive order targeted at predominantly Muslims countries has resulted in so many people suffering unjustified delays and many families being separated or stranded with nowhere to go.

The ban is wrong on all levels and I was pleased to see that the President has been tempered by the courts and the ban temporarily suspended. However Trump has unfortunately said he will try and reinstate it.

Many of my constituents have contacted me about President Trump's state visit to the UK, asking how it can be justified following his insistence on a ban. Quite frankly it can't. We cannot stand by and do nothing, as Theresa May would have us do, while Trump tramples on the rights and freedoms of people around the world. That is why I spoke at a rally on Saturday against Trump and I was pleased to see such large crowds completely united against his ban. There should be no state visit until this ban is completely off the table.

We have always had a close working relationship with the United States on vital matters like trade and security, and it is important to continue that special relationship. But that special relationship comes with responsibilities and it must express our core British values - like human rights, social justice and equality. The relationship must work not only for the United States, but for the United Kingdom as well. We cannot sell our souls to sell our goods and services. That is too high a price to pay.

But what is the antidote to the Trump virus and its symptoms of racism, misogyny and division? As I told the people at the rally, "the antidote is you, it's me and it's us". The antidote is building bridges - not the walls which the President is so fond of.

Edmund Burke famously said: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing".

I'm sure he meant to include women in that wise statement. And it was women who were first to mobilise against Trump's extremism. Hundreds of thousands took part in the women's march and they were rightly joined by men, boys, girls, gay, straight, and people of religion and none. We in the United Kingdom must continue to speak with a united voice against the racism, bigotry, misogyny and Islamophobia and all the tools of division which gave President Trump the keys to the White House.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr. once said: "I cannot be where I ought to be until you are where you ought to be - that is the inter-related structure of reality. We affect each other, we are tied together in a single garment of destiny, we need each other to move to the next level - there is no way around it." This is why we cannot just stand by and do nothing.

In the United Kingdom incitement to racial hatred is outlawed. We must ensure the law is enforced. We must not be led by the hand of hate, but work hand in hand to secure equality. The Labour Party is an enabling party; we seek to enable people to succeed, achieve and enable people to express their religion or express no religion in peace. We enable people to live, work, play and pray wherever they choose.

History judges us by the actions we take in opposing oppression. Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party were on the wrong side of history when the former Prime Minister opened her door to P.W Botha while Nelson Mandela suffered in a prison cell. Theresa May and her party are again on the wrong side of history with President Trump.

As I said on Saturday in my adaptation of Pastor Martin Niemöller's poem: first they came for black people and you didn't speak out because you weren't black, then they came for the Jews and you didn't speak out because you weren't Jewish, then they came for the Muslims and they didn't speak out because you weren't a Muslim, then they came for you... and there was no one left to speak for you. This exemplifies why this issue affects us all.

Our special relationship with the United States is indeed special, but it is not without limits. The President's ban may have been temporarily suspended, but there is no doubt in my mind that his state visit should be postponed until the very threat of this ban is dropped by the President himself.

The tens of thousands who have protested Trump's ban in the UK have spoken up, the Labour Party has spoken up, the Speaker of the House of Commons has spoken up, and it is now time for the government to stand up for British values. We are not a nation of hate and now we must show it.

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