It is likely that Donald Trump will be invited for a state visit to the United Kingdom next year. The pageantry and tradition of these occasions are splendid. Such events take place a couple of times a year.
The visiting Head of State – from nations large or small around the globe – usually stays with The Queen at Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle. I suppose with Her Majesty having the builders in fixing up her London residence it could be that Windsor Castle may be more convenient for the next few years. Close to the Airport as well…
There is always a State Banquet to meet politicians. Perhaps another banquet hosted by the Lord Mayor and City of London Corporation to give business figures a chance to schmooze. There will be inspecting of troops on Horse Guards Parade. Gun salutes are fired and the visiting Head of State tours around with The Queen in a carriage.
Often The Queen gives the visitor a carriage clock – which the Foreign Office pays for. Sometimes a set of cutlery if it is a really important visitor.
It is easy to imagine how many foreign leaders are rather chuffed by all this. Beyond all the fun and showmanship such occasions provide an enhancement to Britain’s status in the world.
Quite frankly some of those who have been honoured in this way have been absolute monsters – including Nicolae Ceaușescu, Hastings Banda and Robert Mugabe. But we understand that The Queen follows Foreign Office advice – she can’t just invite whoever she feels like having over.
However, particularly important is when the visitor is the President of the United States, the leader of the free world and the UK’s most important ally. Ronald Reagan has been, so has Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama. As with a marriage the so-called ‘special relationship’ cannot be taken for granted – you have to keep working at maintaining it.
In some ways Trump is a more obvious choice than any of his recent predecessors for an invitation. Trump is an anglophile. His mother was Scottish and “a big fan of The Queen”. And of course Trump has made a point of setting up businesses here.
It should be pretty obvious that whether we were rooting for him or Hillary Clinton (or gave up in bewilderment and despair at such a poor choice of candidates) it is in British interests to have the best possible relations with a Trump administration. We might feel that some of Trump’s statement’s have been a bit gauche – but compared to some of the gangsters that have pitched up at Buckingham Palace and been allowed in over the years he is a saintly figure.
Yet this has not meant that the proposed visit has escaped political controversy. It is likely that the visit would include addressing both houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall. The Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott declares grandly that this would not be “appropriate”. The Labour MP for Hammersmith Andrew Slaughter gives us due warning that he would not turn up.
Would it not show better judgment to give Trump a respectful hearing even if they disagree with him? Might it not even be possible that allowing the goodwill of a state visit might offer a chance to influence him in a beneficial way from a British point of view?
The mindless “No Platform” approach smacks of student politics. It is time that Labour MPs moved in from such gestures and considered the responsibilities they have as elected representatives of the people – who will have a range of views.
It is worth adding that it isn’t only the Left which is guilty of such childish gestures. When President Obama addressed parliament, some Conservative MPs took exception to his presence and didn’t turn up to hear him speak.
Those indulging in protests and boycotts regarding Trump will be unlikely to do him much harm. But they could undermine the extraordinary diplomatic power which our nation has built up over the centuries.