Parliament returns from recess on Monday, with at least the first week’s proceedings likely to be dominated by John Bercow’s recent stunt in the Chamber.
Stunt being the operative word. Grandstanding doesn’t come close to describing what must surely have been one of the most erratic, hypocritical scenes ever to be played out in the cockpit of democracy. Erratic because he must surely be aware of the unbiased nature of his job; hypocritical because the Presidents of China and Indonesia are among the list of previous invitees with records far worse than that of President Trump’s.
Did he expect plaudit for spouting his renegade opinion and littering the floor of the House with false liberal tears? Disappointment must be rife in the Bercow household if he did because instead he sparked outrage over his utterly ill-judged, inappropriate and incongruous episode. Disappointment and a considerable amount of packing boxes.
The act of shamelessly opining from the seat of democratic umpirage is plainly unbefitting, and at variance with the nonpartisan encumbrance bestowed upon all those who mount the seat of parliamentary power.
So not only was the act itself wrong, but the content of his incredulous posturing on Trump was also totally mistaken.
The distinction between Trump, the person, and Trump, the President, is key to this argument. Whether now or in years gone by, a state visit invitation is issued to the office of the President of the United States; not the person who resides within it. The holder of this office, from Roosevelt to Trump, is and has been a staunch ally of the United Kingdom.
Yes, the travel ban is an absurd and contemptible effort to appease the reactionary right-wing faction of the American electorate and is, of course, totally ineffective in its aims. Iraqi interpreters who worked with US forces have found themselves banned while citizens of Saudi Arabia, which produced many of the 9/11 terrorists, remain unaffected.
It is a pointless, lamentable attempt by the Trump administration to puff their chest and prove their worth to those who voted for them. But the undeniable truth is that Trump was voted for in huge numbers and acceded to Head of State by way of democratic election. The American people have decided their own destiny. Turning our back on the White House would therefore be to turn our back on the majority of the American population. If the shoe was on the other foot, outrage would surely follow were they to shun Britain because a majority voted in favour of leaving the European Union.
Speaker Bercow forgot to mention, of course, that to witness outright discrimination of Muslims one need look no further than across the Channel. The wearing of Islamic headscarves in public has been banned in France and Germany look set to follow suit. The mayor of Asotthalom, a village in Hungary, outwardly said that Muslims and gay people are not welcome in his town. Are we to ban those nations from addressing the Palace of Westminster too? Should Marine Le Pen cause an upset and win the upcoming elections in France, would Speaker Bercow have us turn our backs on the French? At this rate, Parliament may find itself starved of diplomatic visitors in years to come. A lonely, isolated existence awaits should we go down that road.
The accusations of sexism against The Donald are founded and more easily sustained. His advocacy of sexual assault is deplorable, but these are qualms with the man, not the office. It’s the office that has been invited here and with whom we share a ‘special relationship’.
Trump’s whole image and appeal is built upon the notion that the liberal elite have lost bearing on reality and must be stood up to. Bercow, as a bona fide liberal elitist, seems only too keen to prove him right.
He claims to speak for the nation, but at what point did we decide to simply ban things we disagree with? Are we so averse to a rupture in our echo chamber that we simply remove any possibility of coming close to something which could puncture it?
This is not how democracy is meant to function. The content of what the Speaker said was wrong, the way in which he said it was totally unbefitting and the manner in which he brought the chair into disrepute was unforgivable. As a man Trump is a racist, sexist egomaniac, but as a president he boasts a democratic mandate. Far be it from us to lecture him on the governance of his country or, still worse, to turn our back.
Rejection on the basis of ideology would leave us poor, penniless and destitute as a state. We must deal with the world as it is, not how we might wish it to be.
With grace and good wishes the House should say goodbye, Mr. Speaker.