Ahead of President Trump’s state visit to Britain on June 3, London Mayor Sadiq Khan says he believes the U.S. leader is not “in the same class” as his predecessors and is not worthy of the honor.
“Of course we should have a close relationship with the president of the United States, but we shouldn’t be rolling out the red carpet; we shouldn’t have a state banquet,” Khan said Friday, during an interview with LBC, a British talk-radio station.
“History tells us only two presidents have had a state visit,” Khan said. “President Trump is not in the same class as those two.”
Trump visited Britain last July, but that trip was not considered a state visit, even though he did visit the queen at Windsor Castle.
Khan’s comments reflected widespread skepticism about the Trump administration in the British capital ahead of a long-delayed state trip next month. They also raised the possibility that Trump, who has criticized and insulted the mayor of London before, may retaliate, reigniting a war of words that would likely make his visit to the city more contentious.
British Prime Minister Theresa May extended an invite for a state visit to Trump during a visit to Washington in January 2017, just days after the president had taken office. “I am delighted that the president has accepted that invitation,” she told a White House news conference.
The only two state visits to Britain by U.S. presidents in the past were in 2011, when President Barack Obama visited, and in 2003, when President George W. Bush visited. State visits are formal trips to Britain by heads of state from countries overseas, with considerable pomp and circumstance that is not afforded to less formal visits by world leaders.
However, as relations between Trump and May grew difficult, Trump’s state visit to Britain was repeatedly delayed. When Trump finally made a brief visit to London in July 2018 — a working visit, rather than a state visit — he was greeted by protests and a giant blimp that depicted Trump as a screaming baby in a diaper.
Though a state visit was finally announced last month, most indications suggest that Trump remains unpopular in Britain. Polling data from the firm YouGov suggested only 1 in 5 people had a positive view of the U.S. president, while 67 percent had a negative opinion.
A spat between Trump and Khan, London’s mayor since May 2016, may not have helped the U.S. leader’s reputation in the British capital. Even before Trump was elected, Khan, a Labour Party member, had criticized him, telling Time magazine that because he is a Muslim, he would be stopped from going to the United States under Trump’s proposed Muslim travel ban.
Trump later responded by calling Khan “rude” and “ignorant” on “Good Morning Britain.”
After Trump’s inauguration, the president criticized the London mayor’s response to a number of terrorist attacks in the British capital. In November 2017, Trump shared anti-Muslim videos on Twitter posted by a far-right British activist, prompting a rare rebuke from May.
Khan has called for Trump’s state visit invitation to be rescinded. In his interview with LBC this week, he stated that the visit was not necessary. “It’s possible to have a working relationship without the need to have a state banquet and roll out the red carpet,” Khan said.
Though Khan is not invited to the state banquet, he said he agrees with the sentiment of opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has said he will refuse to attend the dinner. In a statement released in April, Labour’s Corbyn said that Trump “rips up vital international treaties, backs climate change denial and uses racist and misogynist rhetoric.”
Khan also told LBC that one issue he had with Trump was the coarse language he used about women, which he felt emboldened others to target women and particularly female politicians.
“The impression is being given that you can get away from it — that you get a get-out-of-jail card. But it’s worse than that,” Khan said, referring to Trump’s comments about women who had accused him of sexual assault. “There’s a boasting and bragging, it’s almost like a green light for others to behave badly.”
Khan said that he hoped that May would raise some of these issues when Trump visits, though not necessarily in “Hugh Grant-type, public scene,” referencing a fictional faceoff between a U.S. president and prime minister during a news conference in the movie “Love Actually.”
“We’re their closest mates, we have a special relationship. That gives us a responsibility to call people out who we otherwise wouldn’t do so,” Khan said. “Your relationship with your best mate is different with your relationship with a mate or an acquaintance. Your standards that you expect from them are higher.”