The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, has caused a stir amongst Conservative MPs following his opposition to President Trump addressing parliament during his state visit to the United Kingdom later this year. His comments were met with cheers from the opposition benches but immediately, there was criticism that Mr. Bercow had abused his position and calls for him to resign. If Mr. Bercow persists with his opposition to the President addressing parliament, then the address cannot go ahead and at present, it is certainly looking like this will remain the case. Sajid Javid has said that the view held by Mr. Bercow is not the view held by government ministers. Has the speaker spoken out of turn or has he made a sensible decision?
Clearly, the move to block President Trump from giving an address to parliament is controversial. His predecessor, President Obama, was invited to Westminster Hall in 2011 to speak in front of both houses of parliament and it could be argued that in preventing President Trump from doing the same could do lasting damage to diplomatic relations between the UK and the USA. Many Conservatives have argued that President Trump is the most pro-Britain president for decades and with the spectre of our exit from the European Union hanging over us, an Anglo-American trade deal will be important for Britain. In banning the president from Parliament and despite rebuffs from senior Conservative MPs, it is possible that he may take exception to the British government and not give us a deal that works well for us. Considering President Trump’s recent immigration policy and the way in which he denounced the judge that lifted it, this is not something that is beyond the realms of possibility. President Trump appears to be acting to please his supporters and this kind of provocation could be enough to cause us some serious problems in our relationship with America in years to come.
On the other hand, many of Donald Trump’s views and policies are diametrically opposed to British values and beliefs. His immigration policy has provoked a country-wide protests and calls for his state visit to be cancelled. There has been vocal opposition to President Trump’s views on women from across the political spectrum with some senior MPs stating that they plan to boycott his address. It is easy, therefore, to see why Mr. Bercow is opposed to President Trump making a speech to both houses of parliament as it would appear an endorsement for his policies from the British government. This could be damaging for the UK’s diplomatic relations with other countries; especially those affected by the travel ban. Mrs. May’s failure to denounce the travel ban and cancel President Trump’s state visit have led to widespread protests in cities and has made her appear weak. On social media, there have even been comparisons between Theresa May and Neville Chamberlain, who appeased Adolf Hitler before the start of the second world war. It would be incredibly damaging to public confidence in our parliament if a man whose views are so extreme that they have caused protests in the streets, gets given the highest honour of addressing our MPs and peers.
With the outrage that his planned state visit has caused and the controversy surrounding his presidency, it is very easy to justify John Bercow’s decision to block Donald Trump from making a speech to parliament. Theresa May’s appeasement of Donald Trump, with regards to the travel ban, may leave lasting damage on her reputation but thanks to John Bercow, the reputation of our parliament will not be dragged down with her. Mr. Bercow commented that addressing parliament during a state visit is an honour rather than a right and in my view, it would be wrong to give that honour to someone that believes in preventing refugees entering their country or thinks that it is okay to openly sexualise women. In years to come, historians will look back upon this decision as one of John Bercow’s greatest moments and although it may cut his time as speaker shorter than expected, it certainly sends out the message that the British will not simply ignore President Trump’s disgraceful racist and sexist view upon the world.