Why this Labour MP refuses to participate in Trump’s state visit to Britain | CBC Radio

Why this Labour MP refuses to participate in Trump’s state visit to Britain   | CBC Radio

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry says U.S. President Donald Trump is a bully, and “bullies need to be stood up to.”

Emily Thornberry, the Labour Party’s shadow foreign secretary, says U.S. President Donald Trump does not deserve the honour of an official state visit to Britain. (Hannah McKay/Reuters)


British MP Emily Thornberry says U.S. President Donald Trump is a bully, and “bullies need to be stood up to.”

That’s why Thornberry, the Labour Party’s shadow foreign secretary, isn’t attending any of the functions planned for Trump’s official state visit to the U.K., one of the highest honours Britain can bestow on a foreign leader.

While Trump and his wife Melania rubbed elbows with Britain’s royal family at Buckingham Palace on Monday, Thornberry was on the outside, speaking to As It Happens host Carol Off. Here is part of their conversation. 

Seeing that you are outside Buckingham Palace, and not inside, we have to assume you did not get invited to Donald Trump’s state banquet tonight. Are we right?

What happened is that the leader of the Opposition is often invited to state banquets and he doesn’t tend to go to them. But he definitely didn’t want to go to this one.

And I normally deputize for him, but I wrote to Her Majesty and explained that if I was to be invited, I would decline — and I didn’t want to embarrass her. 

Trump, right, his wife Melania, centre, and Queen Elizabeth, left, are pictured together at Buckingham Palace in London. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

And so what message are you sending by being outside the palace?

It’s not that I don’t have a great deal to say to Donald Trump. I mean, I would like to talk to him about the way in which he’s tearing up the world order, ripping up treaties. He’s pushing the climate beyond crisis. He doesn’t seem to be taking the matter seriously. He is ripping up the Iranian nuclear deal. He is treading all over peace in the Middle East. I’m very happy to talk to him about all of those things. But I didn’t want to do it in front of Her Majesty.

So if he wants to have a private meeting, I’m more than happy to speak to him. But I didn’t think that a state banquet was the place to talk about it.

And I presume he did not ask you if you wanted to meet with him privately to hear what you would have to say.

No, strangely he doesn’t seem to want to see the Opposition … and so, therefore, I’m quite happy to make clear in all other outlets what it is that I think that he is doing wrong.

I think that the British government has been entirely pusillanimous. I don’t think that it’s right to proffer a hand to Donald Trump. I think that it’s important to stand up to him, not least because he’s a bully, and I think that bullies need to be stood up to. 

In fact, Donald Trump kicked off the visit by insulting the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

[Trump said: “No, I don’t think much of him. I think that he’s the twin of [New York Mayor Bill] De Blasio, except shorter.”]

That was among many remarks he made about Mr. Khan. What do you make of those comments?

I saw on Twitter that Bill de Blasio was welcoming this and saying that it was an honour to him to be compared to Sadiq Khan. As indeed it is. He is a great man. And, frankly, the president has no business coming to London and insulting our mayor, saying he’s a nasty person.

He also said — I don’t know if you heard this —  he also said [to the U.K. Sun] that the mother of the Queen’s great-grandson was a “nasty” person. I mean, honestly.

And then he started trying to tell us that he can pick who the next prime minister is going to be by telling us what a great man [Conservative MP] Boris Johnson would be as prime minister. I mean, he seems to forget that we are a democracy. We’re a noisy and fractious and an ill-tempered, at times, democracy, but we are a democracy. And, frankly, we don’t need his advice. We can work out for ourselves who our prime minister ought to be, thank you very much. 

Just to go back to Mr. Khan, the mayor of London, once again. Did he not say [in an op-ed for the Guardian] that Mr. Trump’s rhetoric was fascistic and that he’s not welcome in London? So didn’t the mayor actually spoil for a fight himself from the very beginning?

I think that you’ll find if you really want to look at who comes first, that it was Donald Trump at the outset. … I think that he, out of the blue, started insulting London and the mayor of London.

I don’t know what problem he’s got with our Muslim mayor. I have no idea. But he certainly seems to have a problem with him.

Trump, left, and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, right, have been trading blows ahead of the U.S. president’s visit to the U.K. (Jonathan Ernst, Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters )

You’ve said that Mr. Trump is a racist. It is not true that your Labour Party is under investigation for anti-Semitism? Does that make it more difficult for you to cast aspersions on Mr. Trump?

I think you have to call out racism when you see it, wherever it is. And I have been very clear about how disappointed I am by the way in which the Labour Party has not dealt with anti-Semitism fast enough. We certainly have anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. We have anti-Semitism in the Conservative Party and, indeed, throughout Britain. But my party should be at a higher standard than any other parties.

And I will hold the United States president to a high standard too, when he starts caging children and they die early unnecessarily and they’re separated from their parents. And I will call it out for what it is. And when he starts trying to ban people from Muslim-majority countries, I will call that out for what it is. It’s racism.

I wonder how popular he is in the U.K. I mean, leading up to this visit, he praised the likes of [Brexit Party Leader] Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson — popular men in some large areas of your country. How much influence do you think that Mr. Trump can have over British politics with his favouritism?

As I stand here now, I’m standing looking at Buckingham Palace, there’s a group of 50 or so pro-Trump protesters. And over on the other side of the large memorial to Queen Victoria, I can’t see them, but I’m told that there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of anti-Trump demonstrators.

People protest outside Buckingham Palace in London during Trump’s state visit to Britain. (Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters)

I think that Donald Trump is not popular in this country. America is. And we are longstanding friends of America and, indeed, Canada. And the work that we have done together, particularly in relation to the Second World War, is something that we hold very dear.

But that does not mean that we need to give the president of the United States the honour of a state banquet and a state visit. That is a great honour and should only be given to someone who, frankly, deserves it. And he personally does not.

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from The Associated Press. Produced by Chris Harbord. Q&A has been edited and condensed for clarity.


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