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Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Commons Speaker taps into national mood with Trump ban

Whatever one might say about House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow, his announcement yesterday, that Donald Trump should be blocked from addressing Parliament has tapped into the mood of the nation.

Inevitably, the decision of the Speaker not to invite the US President to speak to the House because of its opposition to "racism and sexism" has attracted some controversy. The announcement appears to have taken the Speaker of the Lords by surprise, whilst a number of Tory MPs are significantly unhappy.

Irrespective of the consequences it is likely that Bercow has killed off any likelihood that Trump will formally speak to MPs despite the fact that a number of equally unsavoury heads of state have done so in the past.

I suspect that the unseemly haste with which the invitation for a State visit was issued was significant rather than Trump's views. That though, should not prevent the Speaker indulging in what was an effective piece of political theatre.

The question now is whether Bercow has set a new benchmark by which these invitations are issued? In the past the Indonesian President has addressed MPs despite his rather dodgy human rights record. Singapore's President has enjoyed the privilege of speaking to Parliament even though homosexuality is illegal in his country and the Chinese President has also been afforded the privilege.

If a new moral and ethical criteria is to be applied to such invitations in future then that is very welcome. However, the Speaker needs to define more clearly what that criteria is and ensure that it is applied consistently.
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