John Bercow ‘faces calls to consider position’ after Trump ban

Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow responds to a point of order from Labour politician Stephen Doughty on the state visit of US President Donald Trump to the UK. Picture: UK  / AFP PHOTO / PRU
Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow responds to a point of order from Labour politician Stephen Doughty on the state visit of US President Donald Trump to the UK. Picture: UK / AFP PHOTO / PRU
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Commons Speaker John Bercow faced calls to consider his position after insisting Donald Trump should not be allowed to address Parliament.

The backlash against the Speaker after his extraordinary attack on the US President saw the chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee appear to question Mr Bercow’s judgment while a Tory backbencher dubbed the comments “unwise”.

The Speaker appeared to brand Mr Trump a “racist” as he said the president’s travel ban on Muslims from seven countries, and refugees, had hardened his hostility to any high- profile Westminster address during the visit.

Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Crispin Blunt criticised Mr Bercow’s comments, saying: “He has no idea whether he will be speaking for a majority of the House of Commons, and this is why Speakers do not express their opinion.

“That’s the entire point, otherwise they can’t remain neutral and above the political fray.”

And Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi said Mr Bercow should now “think about” his position and explain his remarks to Parliament.

Iraqi-born Mr Zahawi, who sharply criticised Mr Trump’s travel ban after learning he could be caught up in it, suggested Mr Bercow was a hypocrite.

Mr Zahawi said the Speaker had invited Chinese President Xi Jinping despite MPs being unhappy about his policy on Tibet, and the Emir of Kuwait, which bans British dual nationals of Israeli origin, to speak in Parliament.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “I think it is, in my book, unwise and he opens himself up to the accusation of hypocrisy, that’s my point.

“I just think it’s unwise on the Queen’s Sapphire Jubilee to take a political position so blatantly against the elected leader of our closest ally when we are urging them, as I was last week - I am against the travel ban, especially for banning refugees from Syria who are desperate, who have been vetted - but it’s unwise to ban the legitimately elected president of the United States of America, our closest ally when we’re trying to urge them not to shoot from the hip, not to ban people, to exercise restraint, look at evidence.

“Yet we are now, or at least the Speaker of Parliament, who has a big, big responsibility, is now sort of talking the language of bans.”

Mr Zahawi said he wanted Mr Trump to come to Parliament so he could “eyeball him” and make his feelings clear about the travel ban.

The Speaker was applauded in the Commons on Monday after making his intervention, which reignited the controversy over the state visit granted to the US President.

“I feel very strongly that our opposition to racism and to sexism and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations in the House of Commons,” Mr Bercow told MPs.

The Speaker said he was “strongly opposed” to the idea of an address to both Houses of Parliament by Mr Trump before the travel ban, and was now “even more strongly” against such an invitation.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said the US President was “very welcome” in the UK but decisions about Parliament were for the Speaker and Lord Speaker Lord Fowler.

Asked if Mr Bercow had overstepped the mark, he told BBC Breakfast: “Anyone who knows the Speaker knows that he’s perfectly capable of speaking his own mind.”

He added: “The decision about Parliament is a decision for the Speaker and the Lord Speaker.

“That’s something that Government can’t get involved in, but it’s very clear that we should be working with the US President and that he should be absolutely welcome to our country.”

Mr Javid was challenged about retweeting a statement in December 2015 which said anyone who backed Mr Trump was “certified insane” and was asked if he wanted to retract it.

He replied: “That’s not something I’ve ever said. And what matters is that whoever is sitting in that office - it doesn’t matter who it is - that is a person that we need to get on with, and we should reach out with and we should work with.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn backed the Speaker’s stance, hitting out at Mr Trump’s “misogyny and his racism and his behaviour over international law - particularly on the convention on refugees” on BBC Radio London.

He said Mr Bercow was “absolutely right and I welcome his statement”.