POLITICS

Commons Speaker John Bercow Slams Trump 'Racism, Sexism' And Vows To Block Westminster Invite

Applause from MPs after broadside at US President

06/02/2017 17:12 | Updated 07 February 2017

Donald Trump’s “racism and sexism” make him unfit to speak in Parliament’s historic Westminster Hall, House of Commons Speaker John Bercow has declared.

In a withering attack on the new US President, Bercow vowed to use his power to block any plans for Trump to address both Houses of Parliament in the 11th century building.

Bercow was applauded by MPs as he warned that Trump’s recent travel ban had confirmed his belief he would be “strongly opposed” to the invite.

“As far as this place [the House of Commons] is concerned, I feel very strongly that our opposition to racism and to sexism and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations in the House of Commons,” he said.

The Speaker said that Theresa May’s invite to Trump for a State Visit this year - which was made on her White House trip last week - was beyond his “pay grade”.

Despite 1.8 million people signing a public petition objecting to the Trump visit, he is set to visit Buckingham Palace and Downing Street as part of the Prime Minister’s charm offensive to build links with the President.

But Bercow said that while he could not stop the invite to the UK, speaking to the British Parliament “is not an automatic right, it is an earned honour”.

Susan Walsh/AP
Donald Trump

As first reported by HuffPost UK last week, Bercow pointed out that he was one of just three people who had the final decision on whether guests could be granted the honour of speaking in Westminster Hall.

Bercow, along with the Lords Speaker and the Great Lord Chamberlain, is one of the three ‘keyholders’ who have the power to approve addresses to MPs and peers in Westminster Hall.

He told MPs:

“An address by a foreign leader to both houses of Parliament is not an automatic right, it is an earned honour.

“Moreover there are many precedents for state visits to take place to our country which do not include an address to both houses of Parliament.

“Before the imposition of the migrant ban I would myself have been strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster Hall. After the imposition of the migrant ban by President Trump I am even more strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster Hall.

“We value our relationship with the United States, if a state visit takes place that is way beyond and above the pay grade of the Speaker. However, as far as this place is concerned I feel very strongly that our opposition to racism and to sexism and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations in the House of Commons.”

Bercow added that he had less say over an invitation to speak in the Royal Gallery in the House of Lords, a venue used as an alternative to Westminster Hall.

But he insisted that he would advise against any invitation to any part of Parliament: “I would not wish to issue an invitation to President Trump,” he said.

So far, 163 MPs - a quarter of the House of Commons - have signed an early day motion objecting to any bid to allow Trump to use Westminster Hall to address to both Houses of Parliament.

The growing disquiet, as well as the threat of possible protests by MPs, means that the President will almost certainly not appear in the Palace of Westminster when he travels to the UK later this year.

Keenly aware of the possible embarrassment, Whitehall sources have stressed privately that the White House has not indicated any desire for Trump to make a big speech to the Commons and Lords.

Government sources claimed on Tuesday night that Bercow had been “grandstanding”, while furious Tory MPs warned he had put the political neutrality of his post at risk.

In a break with convention, the Speaker was applauded by Labour and SNP MPs after he delivered his stinging rebuke to the new President. 

PA/PA Archive
House of Commons Speaker John Bercow

At the end of the Speaker’s broadside, veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner stood up and said: “just two words - well done”.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: “This is the right decision by The Speaker. 

“The Prime Minister might wish to kow-tow to the nasty misogynist that now sits in the Oval Office but no-one else does. We do not want him to speak to us.  He is not welcome.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted his delight, as did former deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman and Labour MP Stella Creasy.

But ITV presenter Piers Morgan was furious at the Speaker’s outburst, calling him a “silly little man”.

And several Tory MPs claimed he had undermined the political neutrality of his role.

Allies of the Speaker insist that while he is strictly impartial on domestic politics, he was entitled to speak out on international affairs and had represented Parliament in standing up for an independent judiciary and equal rights.

Trump this weekend warned a federal judge he would get the blame if there was a terror attack as a result of a ruling to block his executive order curbing travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.

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