Should Donald Trump Visit the U.K?
Recently, Buckingham Palace announced that Donald Trump, President of the United States, would be making a three-day state visit to the UK between the 3rdand 5thof June. His visit will consist of a state banquet with the Queen and a visit to an event in Portsmouth marking the 75thanniversary of the D-Day landings.
The last visit by Donald Trump to the UK was last year on a working visit, which was met with a mixed reception, including protests by groups including Stop Trump Coalition. And judging by the reception to this recently-announced visit, there may be a repeat of such protests. Amongst politicians, there have also been mixed feelings. Theresa May seeks to honour her promise of a state visit for Trump following his election in 2016. There are reports that Boris Johnson will have a private meeting with the president. In contrast, John Bercow, Speaker of the House, has expressed his unhappiness over the visit by declining to attend the state banquet, alongside Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the latter commenting that the US-UK relationship did not need “pomp and ceremony”, but added that he is willing to “discuss all matters of interest” with the president.
There has also been debate among journalists. Simon Jenkins argues that protesting against the visit is meaningless and “childish”, and that there is no “conceivable purpose” in marching against the president. He stresses the need for debate over “direct action” because it creates more problems than it solves. However, this point of view has been met with some opposition, with Paul McGilchrist writing in The Guardian that Mr Jenkins’ perspective on the “politics of protest” is “surprisingly simplistic” in what he wrote. He argues that whilst both countries are democracies, protesting against the president should not be considered as a violation of those values, rather protection of these values from a president that seeks to undermine them. There should be a distinction between making “legitimate objections” towards the person and the office.
All in all, the visit should be permitted, but protests should come with it. Of course, it is tradition for presidents to visit the UK, with Woodrow Wilson being the first president to do so in 1918. It is indicative of the ‘special relationship’ that has existed between the two countries that is based on shared history, culture, and hardships. But sometimes, traditions should be suspended if not broken when change is required. And in this case, change is required. Donald Trump has consistently promoted or been complacent in the undermining of democratic values and principles, as well as being inflammatory on certain issues such as climate change. These actions do not reflect the interests and values of the UK, and therefore the UK should be prepared to condemn his words and actions, rather than putting a smile on and hosting him without a sense of desire to challenge him. If the government will not, and if politicians across the board will not, then the people who protest will make these feelings clear. I do not think that protesting is wrong or completely ineffective, nor “childish” according to Simon Jenkins. It is a necessary part of democracy to allow people to speak their mind, and many will certainly speak their mind about a man whose impact in the office he sits in has been nothing but negative and damaging.