For Trump, a Bri­tish re­sponse of ridicule

The Denver Post - - OPINION - By Dana Mil­bank

The Bri­tish Par­lia­ment set out Mon­day af­ter­noon to de­bate a ques­tion that is of­ten ar­gued on this side of pond but has never be­fore been taken up in the halls of West­min­ster: Is Don­ald Trump dan­ger­ous? Or is he merely a buf­foon?

The man who would Make Amer­ica Great Again, it turns out, has al­ready done a great job of uni­fy­ing Great Bri­tain. Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment from across the political spec­trum took turns in­sult­ing the Amer­i­can bil­lion­aire. “Daft and of­fen­sive.” “Ridicu­lous xeno­phobe.” “Im­pul­sive, not well in­formed.” “Ob­jec­tion­able and hate­ful.” “Buf­foon­ery.” “The or­ange prince of Amer­i­can self-pub­lic­ity.” “What is un­der his hair?” Bri­tish leg­is­la­tors gig­gled as a col­league read aloud some of the puffy plu­to­crat’s ut­ter­ances on global warm­ing (“It’s freez­ing and snow­ing in New York”) and on the “great” and “in­ex­pen­sive” bor­der wall he wants to build.

“Let’s be clear: Don­ald Trump is an id­iot,” said Gavin New­lands, an MP from the Scot­tish Na­tional Party.

A Tory MP, declar­ing Trump “crazy” with “no valid points to make,” said he would like to see Amer­i­cans chal­lenge Trump with the words that brought down Joe McCarthy: “Have you left no sense of de­cency?”

“I don’t think Don­ald Trump should be al­lowed within 1,000 miles of our shores,” said Labour MP Jack Dromey. “Trump is free to be a fool, but he is not free to be a dan­ger­ous fool in Bri­tain.”

Still, the re­sult was good news, of sorts, for the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date: While there was uni­ver­sal con­sen­sus that the bil­lion­aire de­vel­oper is ap­palling, there was lit­tle in­ter­est in ban­ning him from en­ter­ing Bri­tain — if only be­cause that would make him a martyr.

Half a mil­lion Bri­tons, re­act­ing to Trump’s pledge to ban Mus­lims from en­ter­ing the United States, had signed a pe­ti­tion call­ing for Trump to be banned from Bri­tain. A travel ban is up to the Home Of­fice, not Par­lia­ment, but leg­is­la­tors de­cided to have a de­bate be­cause, as Labour MP Paul Flynn said in in­tro­duc­ing the topic, “it is very dif­fi­cult to ig­nore a vox pop.”

Flynn was apolo­getic about the de­bate be­cause it “might well be in­ter­preted as dis­re­spect” to Amer­ica. But for Amer­i­cans watch­ing, it was use­ful proof that Trump is a re­viled and pre­pos­ter­ous fig­ure to our most im­por­tant ally and that Amer­ica would be the laugh­ing­stock of the world if we elect him.

On Mon­day, Trump was at Lib­erty Univer­sity in Vir­ginia, warn­ing his evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tian au­di­ence that “our coun­try is dis­ap­pear­ing fast.” Across the At­lantic, in the Grand Com­mit­tee Room of West­min­ster Hall, Tulip Sid­diq, a Mus­lim and an MP, was at that mo­ment speak­ing about the “need to stop a poi­sonous, cor­ro­sive man from en­ter­ing our coun­try.”

Some Tories lamented the sad state of the Repub­li­can Party. Con­ser­va­tive Steve Dou­ble said he was “sur­prised” by Trump’s sup­port be­cause he “seems to cut right against the her­itage and the val­ues that I un­der­stand the Repub­li­can Party to have.”

But while there was no de­fense of Trump in the House of Com­mons, most in the de­bate thought it coun­ter­pro­duc­tive to ban him from Bri­tain, rather than em­ploy­ing, as one put it, “a clas­sic Bri­tish re­sponse of ridicule.”

That Bri­tish nat­u­ral re­source was in abun­dant sup­ply in Par­lia­ment on Mon­day.

Con­ser­va­tive Paul Scully, though call­ing Trump’s con­duct “not ac­cept­able for an as­pir­ing world leader,” said travel bans to Bri­tain are is­sued for “in­cite­ment and ha­tred, but I’ve never heard of one for stu­pid­ity.”

Gavin Robin­son, from North­ern Ire­land, de­scribed Trump’s style of discourse: “He throws a dead cat on the ta­ble, and peo­ple stop and lis­ten to him.”

One of the most pow­er­ful con­tri­bu­tions came from Naz Shah, a “proud Bri­tish Mus­lim woman” who called Trump “evil” and a “dem­a­gogue.” But she said she wouldn’t ban Trump from Bri­tain but rather “in­vite him for a curry.”

“Given that it is Martin Luther King Day,” she said, in­vok­ing the Amer­i­can hol­i­day, “I have de­cided to stick with love. Hate is too great a bur­den to bear.”

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