Donald Trump debate as-it-happened
16:23 – Afternoon all, or good morning if you're joining us from America, where one of your presidential candidates may well up end up banned from entering the UK. We'll be following the entire three hour debate live from parliament. Kick off is expected in about five minutes.
16:29 – You are here for a reason, not just because it's fun. Or I'm going to give you enough reasons to tell yourself that anyway. From an American perspective, a debate on banning Trump sends a message that even the US' supposedly closest ally considers this man so unacceptable that they have to decide whether to even let him in the country. Given what we know about most Trump supporters, that is unlikely to affect them. Given what we know about most Trump voters, they may not even know Britain is a country. But it will help those fighting Trump to make a case against him and might swing some potential Trump voters who are nervous about his rhetoric. God knows though. I don't know any Trump voters. I don't really know anything about American politics, to be honest. Something about guns.
16:32 – From a British political perspective, the debate is actually quite interesting, because it raises questions about the Home Office's barring decisions. These are typically made because someone's arrival in the UK would not be "conducive to the public good". Under this approach, a range of people have been excluded, including homophobic reggae singers and so-called pick-up artists. If one rule applies to them, why would it not apply to Donald Trump?
16:35 – Right, the debate has started. Labour MP Paul Flynn is now making precisely this point.
16:36 – Before we settle in on the content of the debate, a quick disclaimer: this is a live blog so there will be a variety of typos, from spelling to grammar to basic moral decency. Also, because people like to know where they stand with these things, my view on the matter is this: It would be morally and politically unacceptable to ban Trump from the UK and would destroy this country's reputation for free speech. But it would also be funny, and that should not be discounted. Right, back to Westminsteer Hall.
16:39 – "This is no attempt to disrespect in any way Americans or the American state," Flynn says. "This is the country that's sacrificed more of its sons and daughters in the cause of creating democracy in other countries than any other nation on earth."
16:41 – Flynn is asked if the ban would be overturned if Trump is elected. "In showing disrespect for Trump, it might be interpreted as showing disrespect to the American nation," Flynn says, not quite answering. He warns that the debate could also fix on him a halo of victimhood. "A number of people say we shouldn't discuss this issue. Buit it would be very difficult to ignore a vox pop that… contains the signatures of half a million people [the debate is the result of a petititon from members of the public]." Flynn warns against giving Trump matrydom, but admits even the petition may inadvertently give him more attention than he deserves.
16:44 – Another MP stands to warn against the culture of offense stifling free speech in British politics. Flynn agrees, but lists Trumps controversies anyway, including attacks on women, the disabled, Mexicans and the infamous policy on barring Muslims from the US. Flynn is a good egg, but he is not great at staying on the question. He tends to go off on flights of logic and rhetoric. And that's what he's doing now. He's on Islamic extremists, which really has no pertinence to what was asked.
16:47 – An MP argues that we are in a unique scenario here. Our citizens have never been barred from other countries due to their religion. What should the UK response be? "It would be an outrage if that was to happen," Flynn says. "I would urge the alternative of inviting him here and I'd be delighted if he could tell us where the so-called 'no go' areas of England are for the police, I've never been able to find them…. I believe we should greet the extreme things this man says with our own reasonableness. We shouldn't build him up with our attacks.
16:53 – Tory MP Paul Scully is now up to speak. He's again not the most enlivening of speakers. He's not much better than Flynn actually. "Our debate today is not going to result in a vote," he says. "It's not for us to decide, that's a matter for the home secretary. But what it does do is allow us to have our say." MPs love the attention and this sort of debate, where there is considerable national and international interest, brings out the worst in them. They want to be in front of the camera but they don't necessarily have anything to say. If any interested observers who don;t usually follow parliament tuned in today, I suspect they're already tuning out.
16:58 – "Many of you know I actually have quite a lot to do with the British curry industry…. We all enjoy a curry every day." Christ spare us.
17:00 – Labour MP, Tulip Siddiq, is now up. She's much more impressive. She gives way to Tory MP Phillip Davies (very right wing). He says his constituents have made similar points to Trump, should they be excluded? Siddiq points out that it's not their job to make decisions on whether citizens fall short of Home Office guidance. She lists his views on Mexicans and black people. "It was Donald Trump who ran a dog whistle campaign against Barack Obama's birth certificate. Can you imagine in the mother of parliament's if my colleagues questioned ethnic minority MPs" about whether they are British? It's strong, passionate stuff from Siddiq."
17:05 – Politicians must make a decision when "freedom of speech" affects "public safety". She says anti-Muslim hate crimes increase with Trump's rhetoric. She cites a Hispanic man beaten up by two Trump supporting brothers. They justified it by saying "Donald Trump was right, we should get rid of these illegals". She gives way to another MP. he asks if all of the increase in anti-Muslims hate crimes comes from Trump. Surely the Paris attacks had an impact too. She says it;s not about Trump, but says his words mean there is "real crime and real violence". Another MP says: "Many things incite violence. That doesn't mean to say we shut down debate."
17:09 – "The legislation is to protect the people of Britain. the same rules should apply to Donald Trump." Tory Sir Edward Leigh is up next. He suggests Trump won't be "terribly worried" about this debate. "Naturally, I oppose this ban. It's given Donald Trump extra publicity. We saw what happened with [Dutch far-right leader] Geert Wilders. Did it do any good? I don't think it did."
17:11 – I find this publicity argument rather strange. I mean, the man is not suffering from a lack of publicity. What are opponenets, which includes all sensible, decent people, supposed to do? Pretend it isn't happening? The proposal may not be OK, but the idea that it shouldn't be debated due to publicity seems bizarre.
17:13 – Leigh makes the excellent point that many world leaders are far worse than Trump. "They don't just talk about violence, they practice it on an extreme scale. And we welcome them to our country."
17:16 – Gavin Robinson, DUP MP, is up next. he makes some points about Northern Ireland being excluded from the petition website's maps. He's having a jolly old time. No-one else is.
17:19 – "I want to see Donald Trump come to this country and be grilled by members of parliament. I want him to get a sense of the fury and frustration at is xenophobic remarks. We should be proud of our values as a country. So confront him. What he has outlined may get you headlines, but it's bad policy, and it would change the nature and the image of the United States irrevocably." OK, so he got better as he went on.
17:21 – Robinson does well reminding the chamber that the SNP "lauded" Trump. He rather quickly is asked to give way by an SNP MP. She asks how they could have predicted Trump's later views on Muslims. Robinson says "you didn't need a crystal ball, you just needed to know you were working with". He says his former wife many years ago said he used to lay in bed at night and read the works of Adolf Hitler.
17:25 – Look, I'm not going to lie to you, but I didn't catch the name of the MP who is talking now. he's a Tory though, that much you can tell by the voice. Hopefully he won't be impressive. Statistically, it's unlikely.
17:27 – He talks about Spiked's university free speech survey and addresses the growth of 'safe spaces' on campus. "Liberty is not something we can take in portion or in part. It comes as one and it comes as whole. Freedom of expression is essential to a free people. Although I do not like it and I would not support it, it is no place of me or this House to criticise someone running for office of a foreign country." He was doing really well. But it;s a bit bizarre to say it's not MPs' place to criticise. He's corrected on that by an MP. "You're quite right, we have the right to criticise, but I do not think we have the right to prevent."
17:30 – He says it's "bad politics" to interfere in other country's political affairs. He'd told the London mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan would not be able to visit America if Trump suceeds. The Tory MP who I don't know says there are provisions in the US constitution which would prevent it.
17:31 – Naz Shah, Labour MP and yes, shut up, I do know her, is up next. She tells us about a lunch today with American officials. "We agreed, Donald Trump is no more than a demagogue." She adds: "I would give an open invitation to Donald Trump to visit my constituency. I'd take him to the synagogue, I'd take him to the mosque, I'd take him for a curry."
17:56 – Labour MP Jack Dromey is up and is quoting lots of stupid things Trump has said. You've likely heard them all. This is virtue signalling on a pretty high level.
18:00 – We're halfway through. Did you still think it was a good idea tuning into this blog? Frankly I'm not so sure and I'm writing it. Dromey is waffling on about terrorism. I'll tell when he makes an even moderately interesting point.
18:02 – Laughably, he hits back at an MP saying "I don't think a debate like this deserves flippancy". In fact, that is exactly what it deserves. No other approach is sensible.
18:05 – Siddiq makes the bizarre point that Nick Griffin's appearance on Question Time led to a surge in BNP membership. But actually it sparked the total collapse of the party, to where we are today, where it isn't even on the electoral register. His Question Time appearance is probably the best argument for putting on extremists on TV.
18:11 – This is a terrible debate. The quality of the arguments and the oratory is really very bad indeed. It's rarely great in Westminster, but it's hard to follow this whithout pinching yourself to stay awake.
18:13 – Corri Wilson MP, who has a Trump gold course in her constituency, says Trump is a "diverse figure… sorry I mean divisive". But she does say he's "a man with a passion for golf". She adds: "Being banned from the UK ultimately be little more than a minor irritant to the man. If the Trump organisation is licked out Tunbury it would be… catastrophic for the community. I feel my role here is to speak for my constituency."
18:15 – Phillip Davies, the right-wing Tory MP is up. He seems to admire Trump's fight against "political correctness".
18:18 – Davies is the first MP to really defend Trump, but he does say he disagrees with the proposal to ban Muslims entering America. So there's that. Another MP says it's "for us to apologise to the people of the United States" for holding the debate. Davies agrees and says it's "ridiculous" they are having the debate. He refuses to take any more interventions.
18:20 – "The uproar is because he's rich, white and politically incorrect," Davies says. Christ, the man's an idiot.
18:29 – Davies is over, thank God. The chamber is slowly emptying out as MPs decide to busy themselves with other matters.
18:32 – There's an awful lot of chat about insulting Americans by telling them how to vote. No-one has done that. As an MP points out, they are asking for consistent rules to be used for those arriving in UK. She is told that the voters in America would not understand. Again, that is not a useful argument. The MP – sorry I don't know who she is – is clearly Muslim. She says: "He wants to ban me" from going over there and making the argument.
18:34 – Interesting argument of equivalence currently being made. Trump wants to ban Muslims because of percieved danger to the US. Now we want to ban him because of his percieved danger to the UK. Siddiq intervenes to say actually it is different. He wants to ban Muslims on the grounds of their religion, they want to ban him sue to his own opinions. She's told that actually his argument is not on religion – it is on percieved actions. That moment right there was easily the most intellectually interesting. Which is not high praise, it must be said. But you know. It's something. And I need something. Whisky, ideally. But failing that intellectual interest.
18:37 – Tory MP Sarah Wollaston is up. She is a very impressive politician, her contribution should be superior. "I don't think we should trivlialise this discussion. But nor do I think the result of the US presidential election will be decided on whether… the home secretary decides to exclude Donald Trump. In fact I would argue that should Donald Trump be excluded form one of the US' oldest allies that would send a very clear message to the people of the US about what we feel about those who demonise a whole people because of their religion. I don't think the home secretary will ban Donald Trump. But let us send a message to Muslims that we value you." She says to Trump: "Just reflect on the consequences of your kind of religious bigotry. Think again. And if you do visit this country, take time to visit the Mosques. Take time to reflect on how dangerous that kind of rhetoric is."
18:46 – Anne McLaughlin is up to sum up for the SNP. She says she doesn't "necessarily" support a ban, but says his remarks deserve the "utmost condemnation".
18:49 – Her contribution is so dull there is literally nothing to report.
18:51 – She is now going through his life story. In a terrible error of judgement, the chair told her that there is now more time for each MP.
18:55 – Yeah. Still nothing.
18:56 – Why are you still here?
18:57 – "Language is so important," McLaughlin says. That is the standard of her contribution. Finally she gets to questions for the minister.
18:57 – Is he comfortable Trump can't come in when so many people can't get their wives and husbands into the country. Totally pointless question. – it's a different decision-making process.
18:58 – Her other questions are also irrelevant. They might as well have brough in primary school students to scrutinise the government front bench.
19:01 – Just half an hour more. Although McLaughlin has apparently been talking for 15 minutes and I'm convinced it's been an hour. Time has no meaning anymore. It's like a really bad acid trip. "I don't believe appealing to fear and prejudice is the language of common sense, here or in the United States." Yep. That's right. She's still at that level.
19:03 – The perpetually overrated Labour MP and possible future leader Keir Starmer is now up.
19:05 – Starmer says the rise in hate crime is concerning but it is not uniform. It spikes after atrocities.
19:08 – Starmer speaks. Very. Slowly. Like a man. Doing performance poetry. Or one. Who has a tremendous sense. Of self-importance.
19:12 – Starmer mulls out loud what the test is for a ban, and whether it requires violence or just offence. I'm afraid it is not interesting, but to his credit I suppose he is grappling with the pertinent issues, rather than going off on flights of fancy.
19:13 – The unacceptable behaviours added to exclusion lists in 2005, include justifying terrorist violence, provoking others to terrorist acts, furthering criminal activity, or fostering community violence in the UK. "It is quite a high threshold," he says. FInally, he gives us his view. "There's no doubt some of Trump's comments have been offensive, shocking and distrubing. They're not funny. They are repugnant. But they are just that. i don't think that in and of itself is enough to provoke a ban."
19:16 – Like seemingly every other MP, Starmer invites Trump to his constituency to see multiculturalism in action. Trump will have quite the tour if he ever does come back here.
19:20 – James Brokenshire is now summing up for the government
19:21 – He says Britain is a "successful multi-racial, multi-ethnic" democracy. This is the cut-and-out-keep part from Cameron's conference speech. "Mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths" – that sort of thing.
19:24 – Brokenshire is like ministerial wallpaper. You are vaguely aware that he's there, but you wouldn't specifically pay attention to him.
19:27 – Oh God. Now a Tory MP gets up to ask the Home Office minister if he agrees with the prime minister's comments this morning on deporting Muslim women who don't speak English. Yes, what a great question. I wonder if the Home Office minister does agree with the prime minister on a speech he made on a subject within his ministerial remit.
19:29 – Well, would you look at that. He did. It's remarkable.
19:31 – The home secretary will continue to use the exclusion power against those who want to do us harm, he says. He won't comment on individual cases but "it is in the UK's interest to engage all candidates, Democrat and Republican. The most effective way to influence our American partners is through a frank exchange of views." OK, so the US is in the Saudi Arabia category. You could almost copy his reply line for line.
19:32 – Brilliant question from an MP. The Home Office won't comment on individual cases. Does Brokenshire's refusal to comment on Trump mean there is a Home Office case about him? Brokenshire side-steps it, inelegantly.
19:34 – OK, that's him done. Paul Flynn wraps up. he says the "triumph" of today is that lots of people have watched and seen parliament at its very best. Can I just offer one small observation on that: I watch parliament very often indeed – daily in fact – and I am rarely impressed by it, but this was most certainly not parliament at its very best.
19:35 – OK, that's it. We're done. How long was that? 14 months? 15? It felt very arduous indeed. See you back here next time we feel there's a parliamentary debate of great political significance. Or just one that'll bring in lots of traffic. One or the other. Goodnight.