A fiery debate in the British Parliament turns into a review of the U.S. president.
Trump yesterday defended tolerance when he visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and no one laughed or cried, nor did they remind him how he denigrated his country’s first black president. But far away from all that, the British carried out an act that deserves to be focused on, to prove that democracy is not just something that is voted on at the polls but is also a daily effort to gauge and develop ideas.
Accompanied by thousands of demonstrators who protested against Trump in the streets of London and in other British cities, Parliament on Monday debated an initiative signed by 1.8 million people to block his state visit to the United Kingdom, along with another initiative in favor of the visit that collected 311,000 signatures.
“The president behaves like a petulant child… and his intellectual capacity is protozoan,” said Labour M.P. Paul Flynn. “The expression ‘grab ’em by the pussy’ describes a sexual assault and therefore suggests that President Trump should not be afforded a visit to our Queen,” said Labour M.P. Paula Sherriff. He “has shown such effrontery to basic climate science,” stated Green Party M.P. Caroline Lucas, supporting Flynn. In his defense, the Tory Jacob Rees-Mog could not think of any better argument than reminding Parliament that Emperor Hirohito was also welcomed despite the Nanking massacre. There is the defense that Trump has not massacred anyone; however, he has trampled on important values: He encourages massive deportations, he tried to ban entry to citizens from seven Muslim countries and he promotes a wall with Mexico, as well as providing evidence of male chauvinism and racism.
Only two U.S. presidents have made a state visit to London in the last 50 years, and there was no hurry in either of those cases. Obama took 758 days and George W. Bush, 978. Theresa May, however, only waited seven days before extending an invitation to Trump to visit in June, an initiative that came as a bombshell to many sectors. In addition to Monday’s debate without a vote, the speaker of the House of Commons himself is opposed to an appearance by Trump in Westminster Hall, a hall to which Mandela, Obama and Aung San Suu Kyi were invited, the Burmese politician being the latest to do so in 2012.
Only one other topic in the United Kingdom has mobilized more signatures (more than 4 million) and that was the holding of a second referendum after the triumph of Brexit. The other most popular initiatives do not have anywhere near as much support: a vaccination against meningitis B, a halt to immigration and other initiatives about asylum, the legalization of cannabis, and military action in Syria. In London, an initiative is passed to Parliament when it exceeds 100,000 signatures, in comparison to the 500,000 signatures needed in Spain.
Tony Blair was a charismatic prime minister who languished in history after embracing the bear that was the Iraq war. May, lacking charisma but determined to carry out a radical Brexit, embraces the bear of Trumpism to compensate for leaving Europe. History will judge May and also Trump, who not only vetoes millions of arrivals to the U.S., but is now suffering from his own private veto. There is no visa for Trump in the heart of London.