The Speaker Should Be Applauded, Not Ousted

10/02/2017 12:56 GMT | Updated 11/02/2018 10:12 GMT
POOL New / Reuters

It is a sad day for democracy when making a statement which echoes the mood of the world is taken to be biased.

Four days ago, the Speaker addressed the House of Commons explaining he would not be offering Donald Trump an invitation to address Parliament, saying: "Our opposition to racism and to sexism, and our support for equality before the law, and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations for the House".

Yesterday I wrote to the Speaker thanking him for his statement. In my letter to him, I explained that I came into politics as I felt this place wasn't working for the average person like me, and that I am increasingly struggling with how Muslims were being seen. I thanked him not only for myself, but on behalf of my family, the global family which we all belong to.

It is quite extraordinary that there would be challenges to remove the Speaker based on his stance against 'racism and sexism'.

For decades our parliamentary democracy has been a bastion of hope in the fight against racism and sexism, passing motions and bills to eradicate the evils of such bigotries.

To suggest that opposing racism and sexism is a political debate is in itself an untenable position, as it is both a constitutional and democratic position, to be upheld, not challenged.

The Speaker represents the House of Commons, not just the members who reside there, but everything it stands for. Our values and our laws could not be clearer on equality for all.

The Speaker did not make any of these comments on party-political grounds - it gave no bias to the government or any opposition parties. Thus, it is wrong to suggest the Speaker has jeopardised his role in the House by politicising his position.

By speaking out in the way he did, he did not overstep the mark, but defended the honour of the House and all it stands for.

As has been said, there is no automatic right to address both Houses of Parliament. Therefore, I feel it is right to refuse Donald Trump the platform that only a handful of people in the last 60 years have been offered. Should he be allowed to stand in the same place as Mandela? A man who has inspired millions around the world, who struggled against injustice for equality? Someone who is regarded as a global symbol of hope for so many? When so far all this man has shown, is his willingness to divide and to spread hatred?

Democracy is not an elected dictatorship - without the rule of law, democracy fails. The Speaker's defence of not just our values, but our laws, should absolutely be his right, and his obligation.

So to table a vote of no confidence, when an impartial steward of the House of Commons speaks to remonstrate someone who has been so divisive in such a short space of time, and in the defence of our values, is beyond the pale.

What kind of message would we be sending to the British people and the world about our democracy, if we were to oust the Speaker of the House, for standing against racism and sexism?

Let me be clear. What I stand for has been shaped by my fights against all forms of inequality: misogyny, patriarchy and racism, including confronting the demons of my own ignorance. I have fought the majority of my life against these evils, so when someone as significant as the Speaker of our House feels compelled to make such a bold and brave statement, offering hope against a backdrop of fear and prejudice, then I for one believe that this shows Parliament at its best.

Naz Shah is the Labour MP for Bradford West