Let’s ban what we don’t like. Simples.

or Dealing liberally with the provocative polemic of Donald J Trump

Can you imagine watching the parliamentary debate about whether or not to ban Donald Trump from the UK?

The question is whether we should we be so intolerant as to bar the person (who could be the next American President) from entering our country on the grounds of him being intolerant. The irony reduces me to the sort of unvoiced wry smile that only British politics can achieve. Yes Minister, eat your heart out!

Take a moment to picture the likes of Douglas Carswell, Jeremy Corbyn, Theresa May, Tim Farron and Maihri Black standing up in Parliament to put the cases for and against banning an American presidential candidate from entering our country on grounds of “unacceptable behaviour”.

But on a more sensible note, 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.

We would have a simple debate with complex philosophical arguments on the very nature of liberty and what it means to live in a free world. Furthermore, by choosing to air such a debate in the very place that is at the heart of our democracy, we would send the clear message to America that the rest of the world is watching you and finds the behaviour of some of your politicians to be unacceptable.

We would demonstrate our commitment to liberty through practicing what we preach in the forum where we (nominally) practice and preach it.

I have seen many Liberal Democrats outraged by the idea of banning Donald Trump from the UK, but I would love to see precisely that outrage expressed on the floor of the House and on view to the rest of the world. Likewise, I would like to see the righteous indignation of MPs at the anti-Islamic views that Donald Trump has expressed. That we dared to debate this in our parliament would show our strength and our courage. Further, I believe it would show it more powerfully than a ban.

We could set a leading example in foreign policy showcasing to Daesh and would-be recruits that we find Donald Trump’s ill-informed and illiberal views abhorrent, but not to the point that we want to use his own illiberal arsenal against him and his ilk. We do not close our borders. No, we have a better, more liberal and more democratic means of treating people whose behaviour is “unacceptable”. I want to see it spelled out in public how a liberal nation successfully deals with provocative polemic.

Of course I signed this petition! If over 100,000 people add their names – already over half a million have – then our Parliament is obliged to consider the petition. This, I would love to watch.


The petition in question is titled “Block Donald J Trump from UK entry” and is worded:

The UK has banned entry to many individuals for hate speech. The same principles should apply to everyone who wishes to enter the UK.

If the United Kingdom is to continue applying the ‘unacceptable behaviour’ criteria to those who wish to enter its borders, it must be fairly applied to the rich as well as poor, and the weak as well as powerful.

It can be found here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/114003.

* Millicent Ragnhild Scott is a former PPC for Hammersmith now campaigning in Edinburgh

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20 Comments

  • Thomas Shakespeare 22nd Dec '15 - 4:38pm

    Fantastic article Millicent! I completely agree.

    Love this: “strong views… to be shot down. Verbally.”

    Perhaps a tongue-in-cheek pun?

  • A lot of good things in this article, but two major flaws.

    Despite your assumption that it is “Tory and Labour” politicians who are keen on banning people, with Lib Dems always taking the more liberal view, actually the last high-profile banning I can recall was instigated by a Lib Dem minister.

    Worse than that, it is not Trump’s “views of Islam” that have offended people – I’m not aware of him making any kind of theological pronouncements – but rather his views of Muslims. This is a really important distinction to make and it’s jarring when people confuse the two.

  • Paul Johnston 22nd Dec '15 - 6:12pm

    The point of the petition is not to have a debate it is to draw a line at his hate speech.

    Others get banned for such speech. He is thriving on it.

    Debate with Donald trump? Shoot him down verbally. He does not care. It has not hindered him so far. he knows his audience and there are plenty of thjose here too. Sadly.

    There must not be one law for rich presidential candidates and one for others.

    Its not an extension of the law to ban those who would not be banned. Its not an attack on his free speech as it is not his freedom of speech to metaphorically shout fire in a crowded room.

    I know Suzanne Kelly who started the petition. I have around this Trump issue in the UK for its sad and pathetic life. Liberalism dealt with this issue philospically well over a hundred years ago. Liberals appear to have re-learn with each generation, should we not understand that it is not his freedom incite.

  • Ordinary people are regularly banned from visiting countries around the world. There was a story about the number of British people who aren’t allowed to travel to South Africa in one of the papers in the last few days. Trump wants to ban a lot more people from the US. But as soon as the reasonable suggestion is made that it would be a good idea to give him a taste of his own vile medicine, then we get to hear and read a lot of wibble about how we’ve got to debate with him and it’s a free speech question. It’s not. It’s a freedom of movement question. Trump doesn’t deserve it any more than anyone else and a lot more than most.

  • I do think it is important to be consistent though. Trump should not be treated differently because he is a rich, white, presidential candidate.

    If we believe in free speech and stand against censorship, then as well as letting Trump in then we should un-ban others who we haven’t allowed in for “hate speech”.

  • Good article, too many attempted bans in Britain. I think you would be hard pushed to claim what Donald Trump actually said falls under hate speech anyway. Stupid, yes. Ill-informed, certainly. But at no pint does he incite hate or make death threats.

  • Those who climb on a liberal high horse should reflect on whether they would repeal the Race Relations Act and allow all hate speech, no matter how inflammatory. As so often, liberal fundamentalism reveals itself as just as daft a philosophy as many other forms of fundamentalism.

    There are two good reasons why we’re not going to ban Trump. One, his hate speech comments are so ludicrous that they will not gain any traction on this side of the pond, so he would not endanger race relations in the UK. Secondly, he might, just might, get elected, and then we would have to deal with him as POTUS. We wouldn’t want to have written off any chance of establishing a working relationship by having banned him from our country, now would we. We’re not that stupid. And if anyone thinks this is an unduly cynical argument, please wake up and think about how to cope with life in the real world.

  • A Social Liberal 23rd Dec '15 - 7:34am

    Donald Trump would have his country ban many prominent UK politicians simply because their god is not his. So please explain why we cannot offer a quid pro quo to a man who is virulent in his anti muslim remarks.

  • The US is banning British people from travelling. Allowing Trump to come here is indefensible.

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/dec/22/david-cameron-us-america-refuses-british-muslim-family-disneyland

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Dec '15 - 8:52am

    I actually signed both the Donald Trump one and the Tyson Fury one. Not with any glee or without thought, but Trump said perhaps a Black Lives Matter heckler should have been roughed up and Tyson Fury threatened a journalist. Fury did so laughing, but he still didn’t clarify he was joking.

    The thing is I support sanctions against Islamists who threaten violence, so I gather I should do against others or I’ll look like a hypocrite.

  • @Eddie
    “I actually signed both the Donald Trump one and the Tyson Fury one.”

    It’s interesting to compare the Fury furore with the almost universal lionisation of Muhammad Ali, who spouted some of the most bigoted stuff you’ll ever hear from anybody back in the 60s and70s, and was rewarded with three BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year awards. Fury just comes across as a clumsy comedian in comparison.

  • Given that the probable next Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is a Muslim who would be expected to greet the putative President Trump at Heathrow Airport, it could be put to Trump, that he will not be welcomed by Immigration controls into the UK unless he drops his anti Muslim nonsense.

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Dec '15 - 11:00am

    Play bridge. No Trumps scores highest.

  • I personaly dont agree with Trumps comments but I do believe in free speech which in some instances may offend somebody or another and as for this little country the UK who portrays itself as the conscience and moral guardians and thought police of the world what a joke political correctness gone crazy except that if Donald Trump is elected president the red carpet will be rolled out by the establishment as the dollar is all powerful. Anyway I think that this comment by Trump came about because of people of all different countries who are Muslim when seeing people of that same religion in other war torn countries associate any intervention by other people from outside of that country as acting against the religion that is to say other Muslims as far as I can make out Muslims that are interviewed on TV have a loyalty to their religion world wide rather than the country they are born and live in first. When there is conflict in other parts of the world and the people involved in that conflict are for example Christian you do not get other Christians in other countries saying that the cause of the conflict is because of their religion they just put it down to the country and politics so Muslims must consider doing the same and separate their religion from other countries politics and conflicts and let these other countries peoples get on with it just as Christians and people’s of other religions do.

  • Tsar Nicholas 24th Dec '15 - 6:52am

    It’s racist to support Trump’s views on Muslism, but it’s not racist to support the mainstream view – shared by Clinton, Samantha Power, the Lib dems and all – that we should bomb Muslims!

    Am I missing something here, or don’t they teach people to think properly anymore?

  • Richard Underhill 27th Dec '15 - 10:23am

    Tsar Nicholas 24th Dec ’15 – 6:52am Islam is not a race, it is a religion.
    The UK is home to a large number of Bosnian Muslims who came here because of the wars in the former Yugoslavia.
    At the time they were granted leave to remain.
    Since then many will have progressed to indefinite leave to remain and some to UK nationality.
    If they are treated unfairly on trying to enter the USA by legal means they should be helped by UK diplomats.

  • Rani Sharma 10th Jan '16 - 6:22pm

    It occurred to me that if Trump were to be banned/refused entry, and just imagine he were to become the next US president (stranger things have happened), would the ban still stand? Headlines like “US president refused entry into the UK” would not do much for the “special relationship”.

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