Donald Trump has found unlikely support from some British Conservative MPs, who defended the US President against charges of sexism and racism.
MPs today debated whether Trump should be afforded the full pomp and ceremony of a UK state visit and an audience with the Queen, as was offered just days after his inauguration.
It was prompted by a petition signed by 1.8 million people calling for Trump’s visit to be downgraded, and came as thousands protested against his arrival outside the gates of the Palace of Westminster.
The debate in Westminster Hall, a secondary chamber of the House of Commons usually reserved for fringe issues, is inconsequential since it’s non-binding and Prime Minister Theresa May has made clear she will ignore the petition.
Sir Alan Duncan, the Government minister responding to the debate, said the visit “should happen and will happen”.
Nonetheless, while the US President, as expected, received withering criticism from MPs from across the political spectrum, some came to his defence.
Sir Edward Leigh, a Tory MP, made reference to Trump being caught on a hot mic boasting about how he would “grab ‘em by the pussy”.
“Which one of us has not made some ridiculous sexual comment some time in the past? Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. He has apologised. It’s not really the reason to withdraw (an invitation).”
His comment prompted jeers, to which Sir Edward moved to clarify:
“As far as I know I’ve never spoken like that. All I’m saying is most of us would be rather embarrassed if everything we ever said in private in our past (was broadcast).”
Following his remarks, Scottish National Party MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh said his defence were “unacceptable”. “It is never, ever ok to make comments of a sexual nature for anybody,” she said. “The women of this House have had enough of it and we’re certainly not going to put up with any more of it in this chamber.”
Earlier, Conservative MP Nigel Evans argued Trump was speaking for the “forgotten people of America” – and his success was grounded in the same reasons that fuelled Brexit, telling his colleagues and others complaining about Trump to “get over it”. He said:
“He is going to go down in history as being roundly condemned for being the only politician to deliver on his promises. I know that we can all go back and talk to the people we know in our own little echo chambers but the fact is there were 61 million people who voted for Donald Trump. We’re actually attacking the 61 million people who voted for Donald Trump.”
Evans, who said he didn’t “like some of the things (Trump) has said in the past”, went on to argue he had seen “no evidence of (Trump) being racist”.
Instead, he focussed on the “appalling” racism First Lady Melania Trump has faced. “Let’s hear a bit of parity,” he said.
But the tone of the debate was largely critical. Labour MP Paul Flynn led the discussion, arguing that while he respected the US presidency he believed “the intellectual capacity of the incumbent is protozoan” – a single-celled organism.
The 82-year-old went on to quote Observer journalist Andrew Rawnsley, who spoke about “pimping out the Queen” on Trump’s behalf. It prompted an intervention from an unhappy Jacob Rees-Mogg, another Tory, who said: “I don’t think it’s in order to talk about pimping out our sovereign.”