THE BLOG

We Should Refuse President Trump The Honour Of A State Visit - And The Honour Of Addressing Parliament

31/01/2017 15:14 GMT | Updated 31/01/2017 15:15 GMT
Carlos Barria / Reuters

When I take constituents and friends on tours around Parliament - I love talking to them about Westminster Hall. About the 900 years of history. The trials. The Coronation Banquets. How it was saved from the great fire and again in World War II. But I also tell of the more recent honours it has been used to bestow. Nelson Mandela addressed both Houses there. Churchill lay in state. To address the representatives of the United Kingdom and its people there is something to be earned. An honour to deserve.

I love America. I love Americans. I have travelled across half of that great country. Along her coasts, through her mountains and her cities, across her plains. My grandfather was an American GI who came over to Britain to help us fight WW2. I have witnessed first hand the generosity, optimism and kindness of spirit of Americans of every race, creed, colour and religion. Their aspirations for liberty and opportunity for all.

But those very aspirations are under threat. With implications not just for America for the world.

So I cannot honour Donald J. Trump. And nor should we be offering the honours of our monarch, and our historic Parliament.

I am a pragmatist. Trump is the elected President, and America one of our greatest allies and friends. I have no objections to meetings, visits, discussions and inter-governmental contact. Let us also not forget that the President is just one part of the US Constitution.

Many were deeply embarrassed by the desperate, fawning rush across the Atlantic by the Prime Minister to hold the hand of a man who was advocating torture and planning a divisive and incompetent ban on refugees, let alone the collective punishment of people from seven countries.

We choose to honour. We choose to offer the full hospitality of our wonderful Queen Elizabeth II - who as Lord Ricketts, former Head of the Foreign Office has rightly pointed out is now dragged into unwelcome controversy.

We similarly choose to offer the opportunity to address both Houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall - or the Royal Gallery where I witnessed a remarkable speech by President Higgins of Ireland, full of peace and reconciliation.

Let me be clear - this goes far wider than Donald J. Trump. I have repeatedly criticised the choice to fawn over the authoritarian Monarchies of the Gulf, guilty of vast human rights abuses, the persecution of LGBT+ people and their mistreatment of women - not to mention their barring of Israeli citizens from travel. A strong partnership and dialogue with China is clearly in our national interest. But the sight of the full honours chosen to be granted to a President whose government continues to execute thousands every year stuck in the throat of many. Serious questions are now rightly being asked about the actions of Aung Sang Suu Kyi and her government against the Rohingya minority. It is highly unlikely we would choose to welcome her back to Westminster Hall.

We should not honour or be seen to endorse those who attack or stand against our basic values of humanity and equality. We should choose not to honour those to those who denigrate women, advocate torture, and who demonise people because of their faith. Those are not British values.

We should choose not to honour Donald Trump with a state visit. And we should refuse him the honour of our historic Westminster Hall.

We should not be rolling out the red carpet, nor should we be rolling over and abandoning our basic standards of decency.

Stephen Doughty is the Labour MP for Cardiff South and Penarth