A leftover from yesterday, forced upon Parliament by a public petition. The number of signatures required to get them to take up a subject is 100,000; the petition calling for Trump’s invitation to be rescinded reached, er, 1.8 million, with protesters massed outside the building as they began debate. (A counter-petition in support of the invitation notched more than 300,000 signatures and a YouGov poll taken earlier this month found Brits in favor of inviting Trump, 49/36.) To be clear, this debate is distinct from what happened in the House of Commons a few weeks ago, when speaker John Bercow said he opposed inviting Trump to address the chamber. The invitation being debated yesterday was for a state visit — i.e. to meet the queen, an honor granted to only two American presidents in recent history yet extended to Trump within his first seven days in office.
Hard to say what seemed to bother the MPs more, their disdain for Trump or the perception of obsequiousness by the UK and Theresa May in rushing to flatter Trump with an invite of this magnitude. Being the “junior partner” in the “special relationship” is already a sore point with some Britons. Rushing to appease Trump with an unusual honor for fear that he might walk away from that relationship, especially as the UK leaves the EU’s orbit, seemed to irritate some.
“The intellectual capacity of the president is protozoan,” said Paul Flynn, an opposition Labour lawmaker who led the argument against a state visit.
In making his case, Mr. Flynn quoted a journalist’s remarks about the disgrace of “pimping out the queen for Donald Trump” — a remark that the Conservative legislator Jacob Rees-Mogg condemned as unworthy, even as a quotation…
During the debate, a Labour legislator, David Lammy, spoke of Mr. Trump’s attitudes and asked why Britain should “abandon all its principles” and invite him, “because this country is so desperate for a trade deal that we would throw all our own history out the window?”
He said: “We didn’t do this for Kennedy. We didn’t do this for Truman. We didn’t do this for Reagan. But for this man, after seven days, we say, ‘Please come and we will lay on everything because we are so desperate for your company?’” He added, “I am ashamed that it has come to this.”
“We can’t afford to be isolated and stand there alone,” said Tory MP Simon Burns in support of Trump’s visit, fearing that the country post-Brexit may soon lack any extremely powerful allies. The strongest statement of support for Trump, though, came from Nigel Evans, another Tory, which you can watch in full in the second clip below. Evans’s argument boils down to two points: One, which was used to respond to Bercow as well, is that the UK has granted the honor of state visits to characters more dubious than Trump. One MP mentioned the visit by Hirohito, who presided over the rape of Nanking before World War II, as someone whose transgressions were obviously much worse than the “Access Hollywood” tape. Another mentioned the recent state visit by Xi Jinping, whose control of the press in China threatens free speech a lot more than offhand comments about the media being “enemies of the people” do. His second argument, though, will resonate more here in the U.S.: The honor being granted to Trump, he says, isn’t an honor for him per se but an honor for the American people, particularly the type of “forgotten man” who voted for Trump in the last election just as Britain’s “forgotten men” voted for Brexit.
Outlook: The state visit almost certainly won’t be canceled but there’s talk that it may be postponed until 2020, to mark the 400th anniversary of the voyage of the Mayflower. That seems … a long time to wait if the point of the visit is for Theresa May and her government to ingratiate themselves to Trump, but it would take some of the political heat off.