House of Commons speaker opposes Trump address to parliament
The speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, has come out strongly against Donald Trump delivering an address to a joint meeting of parliament when Trump visits Great Britain later this year.
This is an extraordinary intervention on the part of the non-partisan speaker, who generally steers clear of political controversy. But Bercow said because of Trump's "racism" and "sexism" and his threat to an "independent judiciary," he would strongly oppose a speech by Trump to parliament.
British Prime Minister Theresa May announced during her visit to the White House last month that Trump had accepted an invitation on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II for a full state visit later this year.
But she has come under pressure to revoke the offer after the backlash triggered by Trump's travel ban. Later this month, lawmakers will debate canceling the state visit after 1.8 million people signed a petition urging the British government to rescind the offer to avoid “embarrassing” the queen. The debate will not produce any binding decisions.
Bercow said that he was "even more strongly opposed" to Trump addressing Parliament following the travel ban.
“Before the imposition of the migrant ban, I would myself have been strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster Hall. After the imposition of the migrant ban by President Trump, I am even more strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster Hall,” he said.
He said that an address to Parliament by a foreign leader was “not an automatic right, it is an earned honor” and that there was precedent for a state visit to the U.K. not to include an address to both houses of Parliament.
By convention, three people come to a decision on who to invite to speak at Westminster Hall, one of whom is the speaker of the House of Commons.
“In relation to Westminster Hall, there are three key-holders . . . the speaker of the House of Commons, the speaker of the House of Lords and the lord great chamberlain. Ordinarily we are able to work by consensus and the hall would be used for a purpose such as an address, or another purpose, by agreement of the three key-holders,” Bercow said.
Bercow's intervention was greeted with cheering and applause by some opposition lawmakers.
If Prime Minister May really pushed for an address to parliament by Trump, she would probably prevail. But May has her own political problems regarding her evolving plan to implement a British exit from the E.U. and wouldn't want to put her Tory M.P.s on the spot by forcing them to support a speech by the American president.
There isn't much chance that a vote in parliament would result in a withdrawing of the invitation for a state visit by Trump. But British politicians are not going to miss a chance to cater to the anti-Trump feeling in Great Britain, and a measure to oppose a state visit might pass thanks in large part to the anti-Trump hysteria ginned up by the hard left.
Some conservatives are pushing back against the supposedly non-partisan Bercow's unprecedented statement:
Some opposition MPs applauded his comments, but senior Conservatives were highly critical.
One unnamed Tory MP and former cabinet member told the BBC that Mr Bercow "must be close to standing down", while another said his remarks had gone "way beyond what is acceptable".
Conservative MP Nadine Dorries told the BBC: "When he loses support for what was a very partisan moment I think his position will become more and more in jeopardy…
"It's about what the people want and I think if people make enough of a stink out there I think his position could be in jeopardy."
Crispin Blunt, the Conservative MP who chairs the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said Mr Bercow was going to have to deal with "the consequences" of his comments.
He said there were "strongly held views on both sides of the argument", but added: "Generally the Speaker, who's meant to referee all of this, should keep himself above that. I think that's to be regretted, but it is a symptom of the controversy around this visit."
Former Culture Secretary John Whittingdale accused Mr Bercow of "playing to the gallery for as much publicity as possible" and suggested the Speaker could have had a "quiet word" with the prime minister instead of speaking out.
There is no "quiet word" on either side of the Atlantic when it comes to opinions about Donald Trump.