Donald Trump-Ban Debate Turns U.K. Parliament Into Talk Radio

  • Debate prompted by online protest over Trump's Muslim comments
  • Lawmaker describes Trump as `bonkers' and a `wazzock'

British MPs Debate Barring ‘The Donald’

There are moments when Britain’s Parliament seems to be the nation’s debating chamber, when it’s possible to imagine the country listening as members discuss matters of peace and war. On Monday, as they argued about banning Donald Trump, it most resembled a phone-in radio show.

Not an interesting talk-radio show, though, with paternity results and assaults on guests. Not, in short, the type of show that Trump might host. Instead, it was a discussion about the limits of free speech in society. It went on for three hours, but it felt longer.

There were brief excitements. Conservative lawmaker Victoria Atkins told the room that the people she represents would view Trump as a “Wazzock.” Readers unsure whether this is a good thing need only note that she also called his ideas “bonkers.” Neither is considered a compliment.

The debate was prompted by Trump’s announcement in December that he wanted to stop Muslims entering the U.S. This led half a million Britons to sign a petition calling for Trump to be banned from visiting the U.K. and that, in turn, led Parliament to agree to debate such a ban. Not in the chamber of the House of Commons, but in an annex room, where members who sensed they might get on global television could offer their views.

The first speaker, Paul Flynn from Newport, in south Wales, wanted to make it clear that he and his colleagues had the highest respect for the U.S. “This is the land of Barack Obama,” he said, in comments that might have been designed to outrage Trump, who disputes this assertion.

Everyone agreed that Trump’s ideas were bad. The question was how to respond. A series of speakers pointed out that the debate itself might be playing into Trump’s hands, by giving him even more publicity. If there’s one thing members of Britain’s parliament don’t like, it’s holding a publicity-seeking debate only for all the publicity to go to someone else.

Labour’s Jack Dromey seemed to be under the impression that Trump was on the brink of a multi-city U.K. tour, which he feared would stir up unrest. Britain has hitherto not been seen as an important campaign stop on the U.S. primary circuit. “I don’t think Donald Trump should be allowed within 1,000 miles of our shore," Dromey concluded, implying a ban on visits to Iceland, too.

The biggest problem with the debate was pointed out by Paul Scully, a Conservative.

“It’s not for us to decide whether Donald Trump should or should not be allowed into the country,” Scully told the room. This, as he pointed out, is a decision for Home Secretary Theresa May. “She will, I’m sure, be listening,” he said, optimistically.

The debate concluded without a vote.

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