Recent developments at home and abroad have forced me to use the words “perplexed” and “unprecedented” an awful lot, lately. This time, however, the context is quite different. Today, in a sudden break from the constant stream of bad news inundating my newsfeed the British Parliament has announced that it won’t allow President Trump to address both houses of Parliament during his planned state visit to the United Kingdom. The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, announced today in response to a question from the opposition that he “would not wish to issue an invitation to President Trump to speak in the Royal Gallery”. Mr. Bercow’s remarks come as a surprise to many, and I would’ve paid anything, and I mean ANYTHING, to have seen Mr. Trump’s face following this historic announcement.
The British Parliament has never denied a foreign leader the honor of addressing Westminster, especially once the Prime Minister has issued an official invitation for a visit. This is anything but good news for the President of the United States. When the Parliament of one of your closest allies turns its back on you and in doing so effectively humiliates you in front of the whole world, you have no choice but to reexamine that relationship and deduce the causes of this unfortunate end result. Then of course, that is something only a normal leader would do. And Trump is anything but normal.
Here’s a transcript of Speaker Bercow’s remarks:
“An address by a foreign leader to both houses of Parliament is not an automatic right, it is an earned honor. Moreover, there are many precedents for state visits to take place to our country which do not include an address to both houses of Parliament. Now, in relation to Westminster Hall, there are three keyholders to Westminster Hall: 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 keyholders. I must say that 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. So far as the Royal Gallery is concerned, it is in another part of the building, although customarily an invitation to a visiting leader to deliver an address there would be issued in the names of the two Speakers. I would not wish to issue an invitation to President Trump to speak in the Royal Gallery“.
“We value our relationship with the United States. If a state visit takes place, that is way beyond and above the paygrade of the Speaker. However, as far as this place is concerned, I feel very strongly that our opposition to racism and to sexism and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations in the House of Commons”.
Before I continue, it would be worth noting that up until he became the Speaker of the House of Commons in 2009, Mr. Bercow was a fervent member of the Conservative Party, a reminder that this unprecedented move has nothing to do with politics. It’s simply about doing what’s right.
Mr. Bercow’s remarks echo what many in the UK and across Europe think and feel about this president. They don’t like him, and worst of all, they don’t seem to have any respect for him. And who could blame them? This man has singlehandedly alienated an entire nation and its closest allies. On top of that, he’s constantly reminding us that diplomacy, good manners, dignity and decency are values that no longer belong in the White House. The president reaches new lows every single day.
I would hope that today’s unusual announcement serves as a wake up call for a man who doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing or what his job truly entails. But then again, hope is for fools.
Watch the Speaker’s full remarks here.