Anne Main rejects calls to retract State Visit offer to President Trump

20th February 2017

Anne Main rejects calls for the Government to retract the offer of a State Visit for President Trump as, whether we agree with some of this views or not, he is the democratically elected President of a close and valuable ally. 

I will keep my remarks brief. I am disappointed that some hon. Members who have spoken in favour of the petition to ban President Trump have said that anyone who supports the visit is an apologist for his views. That is absolutely not the case. My hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk (James Cartlidge) was exactly right when he spoke of the need for calm, reflective diplomacy. I do not think megaphone diplomacy is ever to be advocated; we are best served by conducting our relationship with the United States in a positive manner.

The Government’s response to both petitions said that the visit was offered

“on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen”.

I cannot think that the Queen is completely unaware of what is being offered in her name. I do not actually have any idea of what Her Majesty thinks—that is way above my pay grade—but that is the whole point: we are not aware of what Her Majesty thinks. As convention decrees, she does not pronounce her views. However, I cannot think that Her Majesty will be embarrassed. As always, she will be a beacon of soft diplomacy by greeting the visitors to this country who are accorded the right of a visit in her name.

I made a list of hon. Members who are against the visit, including the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn), the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) and the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty). I find it quite surprising that they argue that seven days was a short term in which to make the invitation. I hope colleagues will indulge me in saying that it is like the old story that someone is arguing with a prostitute about the price, and when he offers her tuppence, she says, “What do you take me for?”, and he says, “I think we know”. That is now a negotiating strategy. [Interruption.] Oh, let us have some fake outrage now; I think everybody has heard that comment before. I am standing here as a woman being shouted down by women, isn’t that right?

If not during those seven days, at what time would Opposition Members have considered it appropriate to extend the invitation? What we are actually talking about is a ban. From everything that has been said, there would seem to be no point that would be acceptable to the hon. Members who have spoken in favour of the petition to ban President Trump. I have listened courteously to all hon. Members who have spoken; I have sat here and not intervened because I am mindful of time, so I would appreciate not being barracked by Opposition Members.

My point is that, if we agree that the diplomacy to be extended between ourselves and the United States of America is within the gift of the Prime Minister and, I presume, with the permission of Her Majesty, we know that it will be done in the best possible manner to further our relationship with our closest ally. I am amazed that Opposition Members think that using a stick to poke and stir up the bees’ nest is the best way forward. The calm, reflective measures that were talked earlier about are exactly what we need.

Any of us who have particular concerns about some of President Trump’s pronouncements are quite right to have them; I object completely to some of the things that have been said. However, our Government have extended an invitation, in the name of Her Majesty, for someone to come to our country as a welcomed ally and as a President with whom we shall hopefully have a good and purposeful relationship.

We are now hearing comments about the man being protozoan. We have no respect for leaders of other countries if we talk about them in that manner. If we have concerns about his policies, we can by all means criticise them and raise those concerns, but until that point—until we turn our back on the President of the United States of America—I think it is quite appropriate that we offer a state visit. Our Prime Minister, through her diplomatic efforts, has secured a future for NATO and a future direction for this country that binds us together as allies.

 

Does my hon. Friend get the impression that a number of people simply cannot come to terms with the fact that 61 million-plus people voted for the President of the United States, Donald Trump, because they felt left behind? There is an inability among people in this House to come to terms with democracy. That is why Tony Blair was visiting TV and radio stations the other day, trying to reverse the democratic decision of the British people—it is an inability to understand what democracy is all about.

 

My hon. Friend is right. There have been plenty of comments here, but nearly 63 million people, I am reliably informed, voted for President Trump. That is their democratic decision. They are the people who have evaluated whether they like the man and whether they think he will take the country forwards. Many of them were aware of some of his comments in the past, and they voted for him because of the lines he has taken. It is not for us to criticise them and try to redress the matter now. I thought it was ridiculous when we debated somehow standing against his candidacy. He is the President, and we must move on.

If we have criticisms and concerns, the most important thing is that they are expressed behind closed doors. These public pronouncements seem completely counterintuitive to what we need to be doing for the future of this country. My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) got it exactly right: the easy thing to do is to stand in this Chamber and make vast speeches about how some of President Trump’s comments have been totally reprehensible. They have been, but how much farther does that get us? How much farther does that get our country in trade deals and negotiations, and perhaps when it comes to our reliance on America at some point in the future when it needs to come to our aid? I suspect this is a very dangerous route to go down.

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