John Bercow is absolutely right. Values should never be Trumped by pragmatism

Chaotic seems like a criminally understated adjective for describing Britain’s process so far in leaving the European Union. Theresa May’s government has held its cards so tightly to its chest that for months Parliament and the public knew little more than ‘Brexit means Brexit’. To add to this, businesses have threatened to take jobs abroad, and the country stands greatly divided. In this time of great uncertainty and isolation it can seem only natural for the Government to seek allies. Such has apparently come in the golden-haired, leader of the free-world, Donald Trump.

It is not unnatural for Prime Minister’s to form close relationships with President’s; Blair and Bush stood side by side taking their respective nations to war in the Middle East, Thatcher and Reagan embarked together on a stark mission of neo-conservatism.

“Bercow snubbed the possibility of Trump in Parliament”

May and Trump seem destined for no less, not only was May the first World leader invited to the White House but it is also planned for Trump to embark on a state visit, including an audience with the Queen. Occasionally, upon these state visits, leaders will address both Houses of Parliament in the prestigious Westminster hall.

In response to the motion tabled by 163 MP’s, speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow snubbed the possibility of a Trump address to Parliament. He told those in the debate that after the controversial migrant ban he is ‘even more opposed’ to the possibility of a Trump address.

These remarks have sparked much criticism from the Tory benches, with up to 150 Conservative MP’s expected to support a motion for a no-confidence vote in the speaker.

This does not go without some reasonable argument. Importantly, John Bercow can be seen as breaching the speaker’s agreement to be impartial politically. However, a stronger criticism can come in the light that amid its decision to leave the European Union, Britain is in desperate needs of allies, few of whom come more powerful than the President of the United States.

In the light of all of this however, a question emerges regarding the importance of political pragmatism even when a nation’s morals and beliefs are compromised.

“A nation’s values and beliefs are far more important than political pragmatism”

Of course this Government should be pragmatic. It will shortly enter into negotiations with a hostile European Union whom are likely to make a harsh example of Britain’s choice to leave, especially amid the rise of anti-European nationalism in France and the Netherlands. Britain needs trade agreements, and getting close with leaders is a sensible tactic for doing so.

However, I for one stand united with John Bercow on this issue. A nation’s values and beliefs are far more important than political pragmatism. Whilst administrations change, it is a nation’s values and commitments that remain constant. This nation’s population and its parliament is one committed to ideas so clearly and openly breached by Trump’s administration: respect for women, tolerance of other faiths, and freedom of the press.

Allowing Trump to speak in the esteemed Westminster Hall, joining a list with Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi, would be a huge snub to fundamental values.

Further to this, with the ‘regaining’ of sovereignty being a central issue for many prominent Brexiters it seems entirely contradictory to be so desperately clinging to, and trying to flatter, a President. Of course Presidents have made speeches to both houses of parliament before, with Obama, Clinton and Reagan just a name a few. But Trump is not only at odds with so many crucial values of the United Kingdom, he has also been in power for under two months. The motion that Trump should speak in the hall is absurd.

As pointed out by Bercow no state visit has to come along with a speech in Westminster, as this is indeed an honour that should be gifted rather than dished out for political favours.

This government must try hard to create constructive relationships with foreign leaders as it marches forward into unknown territory outside the European Union. However, just as importantly, we must also attempt to distance ourselves as a nation from the divisive rhetoric of Trump. John Bercow’s sentiments in the House of Commons was a brilliant first step.

Tomer Raphael 

Image: Julian Mason via Flickr. License here.

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