6 Feb 2017

Bercow: I won’t consent to Trump parliamentary address

NEW DELHI, INDIA - AUGUST 19: John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, UK parliament, leaves the 5 star Ashok Hotel for an engagement at the British High Commission on August 19, 2011 in New Delhi, India. John Bercow is visiting India at the invitation of Meira Kumar, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Indian Parliament. During his visit Bercow will meet the Vice President, Hamid Ansari; Foreign Minister Krishna; Sushma Swaraj, Leader of Opposition, Lok Sabha; and President and Members of India-UK Parliamentary Friendship Group. (Photo by Richard Grange / Barcroft India / Getty Images)

Speaker Bercow has told MPs that if he has any say in the matter President Trump won’t be able to address both Houses of Parliament on the planned state visit.

The Speaker let rip at the President for “racism” and said that as one of those who must be consulted before a joint address in Westminster Hall and who issues the invitation for a joint address in the Royal Gallery (the two venues traditionally used for such occasions) he would withhold consent.

He is potentially frustrating the wishes of the Prime Minister and, in theory, of the monarch (on the 65th anniversary of The Queen’s reign).

But the truth is that The Queen is doing as she has been advised by the Prime Minister and it is the government’s plans to woo President Trump that Speaker Bercow is trampling on.

He was applauded by SNP MPs and a handful of Labour MPs. I saw several Tory MPs splutter in disgust at the terms of his statement and the direct nature of his intervention. A couple said “disgraceful.”

The truth is it is not at all clear that President Trump wants to address both Houses of Parliament as part of his trip.

AYR, SCOTLAND - JUNE 24: A bagpipe player wears traditional dress next to Presumptive Republican nominee for US president Donald Trump as he arrives to his Trump Turnberry Resort on June 24, 2016 in Ayr, Scotland. Mr Trump arrived to officially open his golf resort which has undergone an eight month refurbishment as part of an investment thought to be worth in the region of two hundred million pounds. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

One Trump insider told me that Downing Street had sounded him out as to whether President Trump “would expect or like to address to both Houses”.

The source said: ” He likes to do things that others haven’t done before and that sort of speaking thing isn’t his thing.”

Nonetheless, Downing Street will be alarmed at their options being publicly closed off in the chamber with such an abusive sweep.

The President is mightily thin-skinned and at some point it’s not impossible that a State Visit laid on to flatter and win over the President could end up antagonising him instead.

One Cabinet minister speculated that the President could be spending a lot of time in Scotland when he comes over to keep him on vast estates and well away from potential crowds.

But on the evidence of the SNP’s reaction in the Commons this afternoon, some crowds will find him wherever he is.

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