British lawmakers spent three hours Monday debating whether Donald Trump should be banned from the United Kingdom, invoking Martin Luther King in a discussion of whether Trump’s rhetoric rises to the level of hate speech.
The session was held in response to a petition that’s garnered more than 576,545 signatures, citing Trump’s inflammatory remarks against Muslims, Mexicans and women as grounds for barring the candidate from the UK.
“If the United Kingdom is to continue applying the ‘unacceptable behaviour’ criteria to those who wish to enter its borders, it must be fairly applied to the rich as well as poor, and the weak as well as powerful,” the petition reads.
So many lawmakers wanted to speak on the issue Monday that the MP chairing the session imposed a six-minute time limit on each.
In one representative exchange, the Labour Party’s Jack Dromey said, “Donald Trump is a fool. He is free to be a fool; he is not free to be a dangerous fool on our shores.”
“The honorable gentleman makes an excellent case as to why Donald Trump is a buffoon, not a criminal,” Conservative MP Alberto Costa replied.
Labour’s Paul Flynn argued against blocking Trump, suggesting a little British hospitality might change the billionaire’s extremist views.
“It would be a pleasure to take him down to Brixton and show him the rich mixture of races and creeds that are living happily together there. Perhaps it would be interesting to have a chat about why in America there are more people killed by shotguns every day than are killed every year in this country,” Flynn said. “I believe we should greet the extreme things that Mr. Trump says with our own reasonableness and hospitality.”
On a seemingly more earnest note, he added, “If we attack this one man, we are in danger of fixing on him a halo of victimhood. We give him the role of martyrdom, which can seem to be an advantage among those who support him.”
A decision to block Trump from entering the country would not be without precedent. As the Scottish National Party’s Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh noted, “The home secretary has explicitly excluded 84 people for hate speech. My view is that Donald Trump should be number 85.”
Another lawmaker compared Trump to the anti-Islamic writer Pamela Geller, whom the UK has barred from entry. “Her views and those of Donald Trump — who thinks that Muslims are all the same — are strikingly similar. They use very similar words,” Tulip Siddiq said. “Will we apply our legislation equally to everyone or will we make exceptions for billionaire politicians?”
Ultimately, this was all for show: No vote was taken, and even if it had been, Parliament doesn’t have the power to ban individuals from the UK — only the home secretary does.
The home office, for its part, responded to the petition by saying, “The Government recognises the strength of feeling against the remarks and will continue to speak out against comments which have the potential to divide our communities, regardless of who makes them.”
If he was barred from the UK, Trump would joined a rogue’s gallery of Americans who have been deemed unwelcome there: In addition to white supremacists Don Black and Erich Gliebe, Westboro Baptist Church preacher Fred Phelps, and Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, the UK has also banned Martha Stewart, Mike Tyson, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Chris Brown, Snoop Dogg and Tyler the Creator.