MPs on Trump: The most biting lines from state visit debate

Labour MPs criticise the US President's stances on women, race and climate change

An anti-Trump protest outside the US Embassy in London earlier this month
(Image credit: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

MPs last night debated a petition calling for President Donald Trump's planned state visit to the UK to be cancelled - and they did not hold back.

Veteran Labour MP Paul Flynn led the charge, describing the Republican as "like a petulant child" and "the least popular American President ever in this country".

He also, responding to a concern raised by Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas about Trump's climate change denialism, said it was "extraordinary that Trump, from the cavernous depths of his scientific ignorance, is prepared to challenge the conclusions of 97 per cent of the world experts".

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He added: "The President's power is enormous, but unfortunately his intellectual capacity is protozoan."

Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff said Trump's recorded use of the phrase "grab 'em by the pussy" "describes a sexual assault", and when the subject moved on to the President's position on race, fellow Labour MP David Lammy claimed "many African Americans there are sitting at home in fear" because their new leader "has the support of the Ku Klux Klan" and "welcomed white supremacists… into his close inner circle".

Labour's Bradford West MP Naz Shah echoed his concerns, saying: "[Trump's] rhetoric has been so broad that I personally, as a Muslim, feel attacked and misrepresented."

Former SNP leader Alex Salmond called for Prime Minister Theresa May's invite to Trump to be rescinded before it caused more "embarrassment and division".

He added: "It is difficult to know whether to be appalled at the morality of the invitation or just astonished by its stupidity."

However, many speakers argued the state visit should go ahead, with several commenting on what they saw as the hypocrisy of MPs rejecting Trump while welcoming past visits from leaders of nations with far worse human rights violations.

"[Chinese President] Xi Jinping was here last year," Conservative MP Nigel Evans said. "Where were the demonstrations then?"

Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg was also unconvinced by his colleagues' righteous wrath.

Where, he asked, was the outrage from parliamentarians when Emperor Hirohito, whom he described as "responsible for the Rape of Nanking", visited the UK as Japan's head of state in 1971?

He also objected to Flynn's quotation of a passage by journalist Andrew Rawnsley, in which he referred to "pimping out" the Queen.

Others argued that Trump's office as leader of the UK's most important ally deserved the respect many MPs felt they could not accord the man himself.

Conservative Mark Pritchard acknowledged that some of the President's views were "very distasteful indeed", but suggested the "special relationship" between the two nations "goes beyond any individual who might happen to occupy the White House at any particular time".

Fellow Tory Nigel Evans' retort to those offended by Trump's election was even simpler: "Get over it."

Thousands to protest in UK as MPs debate Donald Trump's state visit

20 February

Thousands of people are expected to protest today as MPs debate President Donald Trump's mooted state visit to the UK.

In London, more than 16,000 people have indicated on Facebook that they will join a Stop Trump march to Parliament Square. The rally will begin at 5pm to coincide with the debate in Westminster Hall.

Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas and comedian Shappi Khorsandi are among those scheduled to address the rally, along with union representatives, environmentalists and speakers from Islamic organisations and human rights groups.

More than 60 protests are planned across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland coordinated by the umbrella organisation the Stop Trump Coalition.

This afternoon's debate was scheduled in response to an online petition that gathered well above the 100,000 signatures required for an issue to be considered for a parliamentary debate.

More than 1.85 million people have now signed the petition entitled "Prevent Donald Trump from making a State Visit to the United Kingdom", which claimed that the President's documented vulgar comments about women would "cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen".

An opposing petition arguing that Trump should be offered a state visit also passed the threshold, garnering more than 310,000 signatures.

MPs will spend up to three hours debating, but because the session is being held in Westminster Hall rather than the Main Chamber, they will not vote on the issue.

Prime Minister Theresa May has indicated she has no plans to retract her offer of a state visit to President Trump, who has already accepted an invite to come to the UK later this year.

It has been suggested that the visit could take place during Parliament's summer recess to avoid the possibility of MPs refusing to allow Trump to address them.

However, there would be no escaping mass demonstrations in London and other major cities. Journalist and anti-Trump activist Owen Jones predicted that it could draw the "biggest protest in British history", The Independent reports.

An estimated 100,000 people marched through London on 21 January, the day after Trump's inauguration, to protest against his stances on migrants, refugees, women's rights and climate change, while 40,000 took to the streets in protest at May's visit to the White House.

A YouGov survey of 1,705 British adults found that 49 per cent thought the state visit should go ahead, while 36 per cent thought it should be cancelled and 15 per cent did not know.

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