The debate over Donald Trump coming to Britain

To ban, or not to ban? That was the question MPs debated on Monday in relation to one Donald J Trump.

 

Now, there are lots of difficult judgement calls MPs have to make. But this really was not one of them. Donald Trump may be a buffoon. He may hold views on Mexicans and Muslims (and even women for that matter) that many of us find bizarre and offensive. But we don't ban people from our country just because we find them obnoxious. Instead, we take them on.

As I said in the debate, the British way is to deploy a more sophisticated response – ridicule. Let him come I say. Our commentators, satirists and cartoonists will do the rest.

We do our democracy no favours by shutting down debate. Let's discuss the points he raises. He claims that there are areas of London which are no-go areas because of extremism. That's overblown; but we shouldn't close our ears to a debate on integration.

Two years ago, I myself prosecuted three young Muslim men at the Old Bailey who had been marauding around the streets of East London at night as part of a self-styled 'Muslim Patrol'. You can still find the footage on youtube. They attacked members of the public for acting in an 'un-Islamic' manner – by holding hands in the street, drinking alcohol, or simply wearing western clothes. Their intention was clear: to set up, in their words, a 'Muslim area', governed by Sharia law. The case was reported widely in the US by CNN and others. It may even have been what Trump had in mind when he made his remarks.

 

So whilst I know for myself that Trump's rhetoric is ill-judged and exaggerated I also know we shouldn't reach for the comfort blanket of a ban to shut down all discussion.

 

Here in Cheltenham, in addition to my surgery, I was delighted to visit the Ridge Academy which does such vital work with vulnerable children in our community. I also met with Healthwatch to support their work in giving patients a voice in the health system. And it was a great pleasure to join Civic Voice volunteers in discovering how we can survey Cheltenham's war memorials. It is a fantastic initiative which will lead to maintenance of our precious memorials. It will help ensure that the sacrifice of Cheltonians who fought for our freedom – including freedom of speech – will not be forgotten.

 

Ban brigade take note.