A couple of voices of sanity in the current maelstrom of insanity

The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, yesterday answered a question from an MP concerning whether Donald Trump would be invited to address MPs in Parliament if and when he pays his state visit in the UK.

A modicum of research reveals that Bercow gave the only reasonable answer he could: that he would be opposed to such an invitation (can you imagine many MPs turning up to meekly listen to The Donald?). He enlarged that answer with entirely proper reasoning. He emphasised that he spoke for the House of Commons only, that he was only one of three “key holders” of Westminster Hall and of the Royal Gallery. He said, quite rightly, that such an invite is an “earned honour” seldom accorded – not an automatic right. If you look at the list of people who have addressed parliament in Westminster Hall, it is very short. The list of people doing such addresses elsewhere in the Palace of Westminster is somewhat longer. However, I don’t see either George Bushes on the list, for example. Or John F Kennedy (though he was perhaps not President long enough). Not even Dwight D Eisenhower addressed Parliament during his two terms – and he was regarded with vast reverence in this country.

But it was the robustness of Bercow’s accompanying remarks about Trump which were particularly refreshing. He highlighted his “racism and sexism”, his criticism of the judiciary and recent migrant ban.

Full marks to Bercow, say I.

On the subject of Trump’s visit, author Robert Harris yesterday criticised the “amateurism” of Theresa May in extending the invite so soon:

She’s made obvious mistakes, not least the offer of a state visit so early on. And even I know that you don’t give him the thing he’d really like before he’s given you anything at all. That is pretty stupid.

A former distinguished journalist, Robert Harris is a hugely successful novelist with works such as “Fatherland”, “Enigma” and a trilogy on Cicero under his belt. That later opus is about to receive a six-part adaptation from the Royal Shakespeare Company, no less. Robert Harris has been a prominent supporter of the Labour Party for many years.

I have recently been following Robert Harris’ Twitter account. As the world goes somewhat mad, his tweets present a refreshing mixture of sanity, knowledge and humour.

His interview in yesterday’s Evening Standard reveals that he has recently become a supporter of the Liberal Democrats.

He says of the Labour Party:

I don’t believe in the leader and I don’t believe in the policies. The party is dead.

Your support of the Liberal Democrats is very welcome, Robert!

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Tony Greaves 7th Feb '17 - 2:24pm

    Robert Harris’s latest book “Conclave” (about the election of a new pope) is wonderful. It’s a thriller built round a voting system!)

  • People shoudl only be invited to address Pariament if there is a general cross-party consensus that this is desirable, clearly there is no such consensus re Trump.

    However Bercow’s remarks were disgraceful, since the 17th century it has ben accepted that the Speaker is the mouthpiece of Parliament and should suppress his personal views. The only reasonable response to the question yesterday was to say that no request to speak has yet been made

  • Paul

    ‘it was the robustness of Bercow’s accompanying remarks about Trump which were particularly refreshing. He highlighted his “racism and sexism”’

    You consider this criticism “refreshing” you must feel fresh all day. There is a constant stream of this type of stuff and has been for over a year, he thrives off it. People need to learn that this is the criticism that Trump thrives off, a genuinely “fresh” approach to attacking him need to be used. Things like his attack in the judiciary (the judgement [if reported accurately] was bad, yet his reaction was worse), the impact on his EAs on immigration, his lack of transparency, etc. But all of these serious issues need to stop being polluted with generalised name calling. Be specific and stick to it.

    Everyone who objects to Trump needs to stop providing him with the cover, obscuring specific issues with generalised statements.

  • Andrew Toye 7th Feb '17 - 4:57pm

    Bercow is sailing close to the wind constiutionally, but I think he speaks for many in expressing widely held British values. The climate of hatred and resentment on both sides of the Atlantic (even commented on by Prince Charles) is not a universal feeling and many will be utterly repulsed by it – the surge in membership in the Lib Dems may be just a symptom.

  • David Allen 7th Feb '17 - 6:22pm

    We need to think about Bercow’s own position. If Trump got the chance to speak to the Commons, he would surely leap at the opportunity to humiliate his opponnets with unpardonably sexist and racist comments. That’s what he does.

    Where would that leave Speaker Bercow? In the impossible position of having to either acquiesce in the abuse, or else silence the voice of a US President.

    That is a choice Bercow would never want to make. He has had the foresight to ensure that he never does have to make it!

  • Laurence Cox 8th Feb '17 - 10:22am

    @ E Bourne

    Bercow was entirely right to express what he considered to be a widely held view in Parliament. There had been no free vote on inviting Trump; it was an action of the Executive, not of the Parliament. In doing so, he was following in the tradition of William Lenthall who refused to bow to the will of the Executive in the person of Charles I when he came to arrest five MPs for treason. In years to come, I believe Bercow’s statement will be seen alongside the Supreme Court’s judgement on article 50 as the beginning of Parliament reining in an over-mighty Executive.

  • clive english 8th Feb '17 - 10:45am

    The idea that Pence is a gentleman or nicer than Trump is rubbish. He is just a bit smoother. A man who can say that abortion should be banned because otherwise more women “would choose to get raped” is both stupid and a sexist bigot who does not understand the concept of consent.

  • Richard Underhill 8th Feb '17 - 11:44am

    Democrat Elizabeth Warren tried to read out in the US Senate a letter from Coretta King, widow of Martin Luther King junior. She was silenced by Republican Senators who alleged that she was impugning the conduct of another senator. She subsequently read out the letter on Facebook. Jeff Sessions is Donald Trump’s nomination for US Attorney General.
    John Bercow’s statement led to further questions. He said that he was within his role as Commons Speaker.

  • Richard Underhill 8th Feb '17 - 11:50am

    John Bercow did NOT “ditch the wig traditionally worn by Speakers”. A previous Speaker did that. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betty_Boothroyd

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