Opinion

Cabbages & Kings: UK Speaker speaks against Trump

The Muslims, universally considered to be the butt of Mr Trump’s prejudice have been pushed forward to do it.

“I saw a shop called Flutterby
Where did they get the name?
A Rap artist called Patter-Killer
(Wonder what’s his game)
The liquor’s gone, the flagon dry;
The tide is high, you’re out of luck
With this fettle of kitsch,
So Friar Friar Tuck!”
From Waag Singh Lehrikal by Bachchoo

The Speaker of the Westminster House of Commons, John Bercow, announced in Parliament that when President Donald Trump comes to the UK, he will not be invited to address members of Parliament or the House of Lords. Mr Bercow said his decision was framed to keep a pronounced racist and misogynist from having the honour of speaking to the mother of Parliaments. He could have added that Mr Trump was a public liar, braggart and rabblerouser. On the day of Mr Bercow’s ban, Mr Trump was attempting to defend his executive order, countermanded in two courts, to ban people from seven Muslim countries from entering the US. He said he was trying to keep America safe from terrorism and added that there was an international conspiracy to conceal news of terrorist attacks. The media retaliated by questioning his press secretary, pointing to the tireless coverage of terror attacks in Nice, Germany, Australia and even this week in the Louvre.
Mr Trump’s presswallahs were challenged to quote a single example of the suppression of news of terror attacks and to name their sources. They couldn’t. Mr Bercow could have added to his list for his refusal to invite Mr Trump the words “deranged conspiracy-theorist”, a dangerous thing for the man who boasts about having his finger on the nuclear button to be. Mr Bercow’s announcement of the ban, or rather the non-invitation, has caused very many supporters of Theresa May, and her invitation to Mr Trump, to call for Mr Bercow’s resignation or even removal. The Speaker of the Commons is elected by all its members. It is a democratic vote of the ruling party and the Opposition together and Mr Bercow won the election seven years ago, being confirmed once since. As such he represents the will of MPs, just as through numerical calculation the British majority vote in the EU referendum obliges the government to leave the European Union.

It is the prerogative of the Speaker of the House to invite people to address it. Mr Bercow is perfectly within his rights to have announced his refusal to invite Mr Trump regardless of the fact that the Prime Minister and members of her Cabinet want to suck up to Mr Trump — despite the fact that there is no indication that this new presidency will do anything to favour British conditions or prosperity in trade. For me the most conspicuous of these Bercow-baiters were the two pet immigrants of Ms May’s party. It may not be a completely adventitious occurrence that the first member of the Cabinet to pronounce was Sajid Javid, of Pakistani immigrant extraction. He told TV that “while Bercow speaks his mind he doesn’t speak for the government. The government is very clear,” said Mr Javid, “President Trump is the leader of our most important ally. He’s elected fairly and squarely and it’s manifestly in our national interest we reach out to him, work with him and he visits us in the UK”. Mr Javid was speaking for the government and that meant, of course, speaking his mind.

Then Nadhim Zahawi, not yet a minister in the May government but a spokesman for the Tory party on financial affairs told the BBC that Mr Bercow should “think about his position!” — a mealy mouth way of saying he should resign. The irony of Mr Zahawi’s position is that he was born in Iraq and if the Trump restrictions are deemed legal, would come under the ban for entry into the US. Of course, he backed up his attack on Mr Bercow by saying he was against the travel ban imposed by Mr Trump (surprise, surprise!), but would welcome him as he might, yes just might, throw a few crumbs Britain’s way after dining with the Queen and addressing the Houses of Parliament. The names Mr Javid and Mr Zahawi sort of give the game away, don’t they? Ms May is not going to cause a storm or something of a constitutional problem by asking the Speaker to resign. The Muslims, universally considered to be the butt of Mr Trump’s prejudice have been pushed forward to do it.

Years ago my family had a cook called Hukam Ali who had been fighting for the British Raj in the Abyssinian war against the Italians. He used to tell us stories about his experiences and said that when the Italians attacked the cry went up from the British troops “kaaley ko aagey dhuklo!”: push the blacks forward. Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats and a defender of Mr Bercow points out that “while Theresa May might wish to kowtow to the nasty misogynist who now sits in the Oval Office, we do not want him to speak to us. He is not welcome. Speaking within Parliament is a rare honour, the highest honour we can offer. In the past we have hosted speeches from leaders in equality, justice and human rights — from Mandela and Obama to Aung San Suu Kyi. Trump is not fit to shine their shoes.” Mr Bercow has no say in who is invited to the country. Ms May has already extended that invitation to Mr Trump though her critics say that she has thrown away her trump card, so to speak, giving him something he and his wife will be crowingly egotistic about, without getting anything in return. No trade deal has been signed and even if there is one in the offing when Britain is free to sign such a deal after leaving the European Union, it is uncertain as to what Mr Trump can or will offer Britain. It is likely that he will want US medical firms to enter a privatised British National Health Service and that even Mr Javid and Mr Zahawi will have to “consider their positions” before voting for it.

by FARRUKH DHONDY