Farron’s response to principle of banning Trump is right in principle but…

Tomorrow, Parliament debates whether Donald Trump should be excluded from the UK. MPs are doing this because getting on for 600,000 people signed an official e-petition calling for him to be banned from the UK after his appalling anti-Muslim comments. We’ve talked about this on LDV before. In December, I said that he should be allowed to come here:

Much as I understand that people are repelled by his views, there is a certain irony in them responding to his ignorant call to ban a group of people with a call to ban him.

I have less than no time for the man. Hell, he called a friend of mine who had the temerity to question his plans for his golf course a “national disgrace, scoundrel and extremist”. However, I was never comfortable with the idea of “no platform” because I think that sweeping prejudice under the carpet doesn’t get rid of it. It finds oxygen from somewhere and lurks there, waiting or an opportunity to re-emerge and spread even more intensified hate. When people express views like Trump’s, they need to be challenged, satirised and shown up for the nonsense that they are.

I’d love to see the likes of Lynne Featherstone, Shirley Williams, Jo Brand, Tim Farron or his new mate Russell Howard take him down with carefully chosen words. In that way, they can also challenge similar views held by those who aren’t quite as rich and powerful as The Donald.

I didn’t, therefore, sign the petition, but Millicent Ragnhild Scott did, not because she wanted to see him banned, but because she wanted Parliament to debate what he’d said to show that we reject his poisonous ideas:

I am certain that such a debate would beautifully demonstrate that we are a liberal country. I believe the motion to ban Donald Trump from the UK would not be supported. It would be a wholly illiberal thing to support and I do not think that our Tory and Labour MPs would get a majority for such a ridiculous thing as banning an American presidential candidate. However I do think that the reasons put forward in favour of banning him are sound. We do not support Donald Trump’s illiberal views in the UK. So much are we offended by his views of Islam that we would consider banning him for proposing them. That is a powerful point. To ban him would not be the correct response. The debate itself, however, would play into liberal and democratic hands by demonstrating that Britain believes in allowing strong views to be aired, to be reasoned with and to be shot down. Verbally.

Ahead of tomorrow’s debate, Tim Farron said:

Banning Trump is not the answer. It’s just the kind of attention this publicity junkie would want.

Get him over here and put him on a platform so his odious and, frankly, weird views can be shot down in flames.

He should hear what British people really think of him.

However, I feel he got a bit unnecessarily snippy when he made this point:

But the NHS, education and housing are three things which immediately spring to mind as topics which would be worthier of parliamentary debate.

These are all very important issues. But it’s not as if the Trump motion is taking up a huge amount of time or space. It’s not being debated in the House of Commons. It’s taking place in Westminster Hall where many debates raise awareness of a variety of issues. I’ve only ever attended one, Caroline Lucas’s on the No More Page 3 campaign which was being much discussed in the media at the time. The SNP’s Alison Thewliss has been a champion of issues relating to breastfeeding, and she held an important Westminster Hall debate which was the precursor to her setting up the All Party Parliamentary Group on infant feeding and inequality. Jenny Willott as minister replied to one on the harmful effects of gender stereotyping. Tessa Munt had one on changes to jam-making regulations that would have affected jam makers in her constituency. It is really important that MPs have a facility to raise issues that might not be part of legislation, but are nonetheless important.

The whole idea of the e-petitions was to make Parliament a bit more accessible to people, so that they could feel that their concerns were taken seriously and could be discussed by MPs. This one has got 6 times the threshold of signatures. We may not agree with it, but it has certainly earned its place in the parliamentary timetable and, like Millicent says, it’s a chance to show off liberal values.

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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29 Comments

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 17th Jan '16 - 4:13pm

    No, I’m good with Tim’s comment. The stupidity of an American politician who, lest we forget, hasn’t even faced his first primary yet, let alone been elected, is far less important to the British public than the NHS, education and housing. Strange, isn’t it, that these petitions are often about things that impact so little on our day to day lives. Yes, have debates that reflect the concerns of the British public, but why not make them about things we have the possibility of having an impact on.

    Donald Trump is a bizarre sounding board for, hopefully, a minority of the American people. Yet there are so many equally ghastly people who hold power around the world, do far more damage, and offer a greater threat to our security and freedoms. Perhaps we might pay them more attention instead.

  • Caron and Mark as , often I can see both sides ! Tim is correct , yet misses the point , obviously a large number of people want this debated .I am all for wider democracy , funnily enough one of the things that saves the US big money oriented politics is the potential for individual voices to be heard via such methods as getting proposals onto actual ballots . Mark makes a point about other world leaders , that is why , even if he became president Trump would be a joke , for most can see he is not dangerous , just an idiot . He makes G W Bush seem like an intelligent moderate and Reagan , a political giant !

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 17th Jan '16 - 5:05pm

    @Lorenzo, if you saw that clip of that debate between the older Bush and Reagan that was doing the rounds last week, you can see how even the GOP of the olden days was so much better than it is today.

  • Caron, yes well said .It s funny , my wife is originally from the USA , and when I met her for the first time , in the 1990 s this was ,and chatted , I asked , ” you re not a Republican , are you ?!”I was relieved that she was not and is not now , but yes , looking back , whether as a memory or clips like the one you allude to , the Republican party has changed horribly for the worst ! There are clips of Reagan on you tube , where , even if you or I might disagree with him , you can see his point and the calibre of the man himself , always underestimated by his critics .As for Bush senior or Bob Dole or even Mcain and Romney , they have good track records of service and never sound like fruit cakes , to borrow American lingo ! As for a look back in history before our time , I believe , Caron you are in your later forties like me , the Republican party fielded a candidate for president in 1940 ,the much forgotten Wendell Wilkie ,so liberal ,he not only had support from New York liberals , he went on , after his defeat , to work with Roosevelt .

  • This is ridiculous. The right answer to people like Trump insisting on bans for those they consider unimportant little people is to ban them and show them that bans are for everyone. Instead our politicians are rushing to defend this odious man’s right to travel.

  • Farron is right in my opinion, the way to deal with opinions is to debate them, not ban them.

    I personally think it should be illegal to ban anyone from the UK for their opinions, unless they also have criminal intent. I do not believe anyone should be punished for their opinions or for words that they have said (unless those words are a direct incitement to criminal acts).

    I think the Americans have it right on free speech and that the only restrictions on freedom of speech should be if the person is also trying to get people to do something that is illegal. For example if an Islamist preacher is calling for gay people to be killed I think that speech should be illegal because it’s incitement to murder, and murder is illegal. But incitement to religious hatred for example (while I don’t approve of such bigotry) is something that I don’t believe should be illegal because hatred is a thought and there is no such thing as thought crime.

    Unfortunately for me no mainstream political party in UK agrees with free speech so for me there is nobody to vote for.

  • Eddie Sammon 17th Jan '16 - 6:37pm

    I signed the petition because I felt he had crossed the line into inciting violence, for reasons I explained under the first article.

    He is a complicated character. I’ve seen moments of sense and love come from him, but other times incompetence and hatred.

    I’ve softened my views on him slightly since, but a short-ban would be OK. He has since said his position of banning Muslims from the United States is negotiable. Trump loves winning and I think he will tack to the centre if he wins the Republican nomination.

  • Ryan McAlister 17th Jan '16 - 6:45pm

    Tim is spot on.

    Parliament has got much better things to be doing than debating the backward views of a foreign national who is a private citizen and has no official position or role at all.

  • George Kendall 17th Jan '16 - 7:48pm

    I’m with Ryan and Tim. This issue is taking the news agenda away from, for example, future Tory cuts to in work benefits, and their regressive housing policy.

    There’s enough to distraction from proper scrutiny of the govt, caused by a hopeless Labour leadership. I’d prefer to avoid further distraction, especially when all it’ll do is provide Trump with more of the same publicity that has kept him the Republican front runner.

  • A Social Liberal 17th Jan '16 - 8:32pm

    So, should we readmit Abu Hamza or welcome Dov Lior – hate preachers both? What makes Trump different from them except for the volume of hate spewing forth?

  • On the point about should this even be debated at all I’m with the author of this article. The UK is a democratic country and one of the jobs of parliament should be to debate the things that people want debated, not just the things that leading politicians want debated. Over 100,000 people have asked for this debate so I believe it should happen for that reason.

    If MPs can just decide that this debate is not worth having they can decide to sweep anything else that they don’t want to talk about under the carpet.

  • Nonconformistradical 17th Jan '16 - 9:18pm

    “The UK is a democratic country”
    Yeah, right. A country with such a flawed electoral system that it allows one party to govern alone with the support of a mere 37% of those who actually voted, never mind those who didn’t….

  • @nonconformistradical

    The U.K. is democratic, yes. At least it is going by my understanding of the word. The single biggest group 37% got all of what they wanted and 63% got none of what they wanted. If we had PR 52% (UKIP and the Tories) would have got some of what they wanted and 48% would have got none of what they wanted.

    I believe that a UKIP/Tory coalition would be more democratic than a majority Tory government, but I don’t accept that a Tory one is not legitimate.

    If we had AV then the only real difference would be that the tories majority would be slightly larger than it is now. I didn’t vote for AV but would have voted yes if STV or PR was on offer as either of those would have been a meaningful change for the better in my opinion.

    I think the word undemocratic means that in practice the vote can change nothing of any consequence, or that there is no vote at all. I don’t think it means having an electoral system that we don’t like.

    If the electoral system really was truly Undemocratic, surely liberals should be urging people not to vote? Because if the vote could change nothing surely the liberal response would be to refuse to take part in the sham?

    I don’t vote if no one represents my views, but that does not mean the election is a sham.

  • Jane Ann Liston 18th Jan '16 - 9:12am

    How about greeting his arrival with a band playing ‘Nellie the Elephant’? The jaunty little tune and refrain ‘Trump, Trump, Trump’ should ensure that everybody laughs and pricks his pomposity.

  • I am against banning anyone….Right wing bullies shouting down liberals does their cause no good; as does liberals shouting down those on the right…..

    I would look forward to Mr Trump giving one of his ‘rallies’ in the UK…The last one with three young girls squeakily singing specially written “Wonderful America” and” Mom and Apple Pie” songs would have him laughed off the stage…..

    Ridicule is something that such people fear more than anything…

  • Would Donald Trump remain banned if was elected President of the United States ? Could be a bit embarassing. More odious characters than him have been invited on state visits.

  • Would Donald Trump remain banned if he was elected President of the United States ?

  • Katerina Porter 18th Jan '16 - 12:08pm

    If Trump was banned from coming it would greatly boost his support in the US, on the grounds of what is the UK doing interfering with domestic politics. It failed miserably when the Guardian had a campaign to get more votes for Al Gore. It put up the votes for Bush.

  • @jane Ann Liston

    I think that would just be a petty childish form of bullying. That’s not debating his ideas, it’s just idiotic.

  • “there is a certain irony in them responding to his ignorant call to ban a group of people with a call to ban him.”

    I don’t see the irony. Banning Muslims -as Trump advocates- is collective punishment for the transgressions of a tiny minority. Banning Trump is punishment of one man for his very public transgression. That’s very different. It’s not his talk of bans that has upset people, but his public and apparently sincere prejudice.

    Of course, the government can’t permanently ban a person who could be President of the USA by the end of the year. And it’s unlikely that he’ll be visiting the UK this year.

    Whatever happens, given the public reprobation by senior politicians in all parties, including Cameron, Trumps election would be a serious test of UK/US relations, and I think this debate will help to highlight that, whatever the outcome.

  • Matt (Bristol) 18th Jan '16 - 2:09pm

    Procedurally, if we have to have this e-petition thing, we have to have this debate.

    Not procedurally, the fact we are having this debate shows that many people on the internet or who find their lives given meaning through the media have become half-convinced that they live in the US, or at least in a common shared culture with the people of the US. We don’t.

    There is – as yet – nothing that Trump says that is – as yet, by a measurement of millimetres – incitement to religious or racial hatred in the UK.

    He has misrepresented and travestied our society and promoted a myth about ‘no-go’ areas. (He has also exploited us financially and damaged our environment, but many people in this country didn’t mind taking his money then and that’s another issue).

    If Trump started calling on people in the UK to join with him in seeking to take moves against religious and racial minorities either here or elsewhere, that would be clear incitement to hatred and I feel he would be legally and morally eligible for a ban, whether or not he was leading any political body whatsoever.

    As yet, he’s on the borderline, probably deliberately so. I would — as yet — not ban him for his statements on this matter. But it may be a matter of time.

  • The mans a complete ejit, we are all agreed upon that, but what about the concept of free speech ? If we aren’t going to stand up for it, then who is, and don’t we have to hold by that principle even when it’s difficult and messy ?

  • Richard Underhill 18th Jan '16 - 3:43pm

    Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton agree on something. The Financial Times put the story on the front page with the headline “Profit Alert!”. Large corporations should pay more tax.
    In the UK one entirely legal thing that happens is that sound businesses, such as Cadbury or Manchester United, are bought with borrowed money. The cost of the interest charges on the borrowings are offset against the profits of the business.

  • David Evershed 18th Jan '16 - 3:45pm

    The defence of free speech should be very high on any liberal person’s list of priorities.

    Only people who have no counter arguments would falsley argue that Trump should be banned for inciting violence.

    As Evelyn Beatrice Hall wrote about Voltaire
    “I don’t agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

  • Eddie Sammon 18th Jan '16 - 3:48pm

    Alright David Evershed, can you tell me how saying “maybe he should have been roughed up” about a Black Lives Matter heckler is not inciting violence?

    http://edition.cnn.com/2015/11/22/politics/donald-trump-black-lives-matter-protester-confrontation/

  • I too voted for this as I think it should be debated. If a candidate for the Presidential nomination says he thinks Muslims should be banned from entering the USA isn’t that saying thats what he’d do if he became President? It isn’t about freedom of speech it’s about power. We have to do our utmost to show the full horror of this kind of policy because it’s the first step towards a Nazi state. Can you imagine what the world will be like if he gets elected? America is still vastly powerful and he would take as little notice of us as he did when developing his golf club in Scotland.
    So in my view we should do what we can to help Americans to see his faults and if that includes playing Nellie the elephant I’m all for it.

  • Matt (Bristol) 18th Jan '16 - 5:09pm

    Sue, it seems to me that in many cases if an outsider tries to help America ‘see the faults’ of an American, public opinion in America swings behind the American, not the outside body.

  • The petition and debate have given Trump lots of lovely publicity with his views being widely heard. Good in one sense but there a lot of people who agree with him so bad in that way. However, is it not about time we banned the Gulf states that do not allow any other religion but Islam and do not allow churches? Are they not doing the same as Trump?

  • Simon Thorley 18th Jan '16 - 11:25pm

    In my opinion, it’s petitions themselves that are undemocratic – or rather a symptom of an electorate that is starved of any real power and influence. They’re the sort of tool an authoritarian government uses to give a veneer of accountability.

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