A series of Conservatives have jumped to the defence of Donald Trump during a debate in Parliament over his proposed state visit.
MPs from across the political spectrum held the debate after two online petitions gathered more than one million signatures.
Labour Party MP Paula Sheriff said he “should not be afforded a visit to our Queen” because of his notorius “grab ’em by the pussy” remarks, while colleague Naz Shah talked of a “slippery slope”.
His travel ban was widely condemned as in principle, but some appeared to praise the 70-year-old Republican for leadership since the November election.
Tory MP for Gravesham Chris Holloway said: “There is something quite refreshing about a politician actually doing what they said they would do before they were elected.
“While this ban is quite ridiculous, it is actually a reaction to the chaos caused in the Middle East by previous generations of politicians which in my view is far worse than Trump has done.”
Welsh Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans said: “When we stand up in this country and then condemn him for being racist, and I have seen no evidence of that, I have seen no evidence of him being racist, we are actually attacking the American people.
Veteran fellow Conservative MP Edward Leigh said: “The fact is that I don’t think there is any proof that this travel ban is racist.
“Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world, there is no question of a travel ban on Indonesia.
“These countries are riddled by civil war. This travel ban builds on work done by Obama.
“So to accuse the new President of the US of racism, misogyny, and all the rest, is overstated.”
Chelmsford MP Simon Burns, who campaigned in the US for Hillary Clinton during the election and branded the travel ban “shameful”, said he should make a state visit but should not address Westminster Hall.
Labour MP Rushanara Ali accused Conservative MPs of being “apologists” for Mr Trump.
She said: “It is deeply saddening and shameful that colleagues who are defending the state visit, do not recognise the serious concerns expressed particularly by Muslims, but also by many other communities, about the dangers of the rhetoric of Donald Trump.
“It is time that those colleagues spoke out against that kind of hostility, which is deeply divisive.
“It is time for them to address the issue, instead of making excuses and being apologists for his hatred.”
The debate came as thousands of demonstrators gathered in Parliament Square outside, in an event organised by the Stop Trump Coalition and migrants’ rights group One Day Without Us.
Organiser and journalist Owen Jones said outside: “We are going to defeat them all over again. We will throw them on to the scrapheap of history. History will damn them. It will damn them.
“We will sink you [Theresa May]… if you ally with that despicable man [Donald Trump].”
The Green Party’s only MP, Caroline Lucas, also told protesters: “We do not consent to a state visit so I am proud to be standing with you here.
“Donald Trump wants to put America first, Theresa May wants to put Britain first. Well, we are proud citizens of the world, and we want to put humanity first.”
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The debate lasted for nearly three hours.
While the majority of MPs yesterday shouted “aye” in support of blocking the state visit, at the end of the discussion, nothing about the debate is actually legally binding.
The Foreign Office had already said it would extend “the full courtesy of a state visit” to the former The Apprentice personality and property magnate.