The decision to finally give President Trump a state visit to Britain has prompted months of debate among the country’s political elite.
Critics of Trump, numerous in Britain, say he is undeserving of an honor that has been given to only two U.S. presidents in the past. Supporters of the invitation say that the U.S.-British relationship is too crucial at this moment to overlook and that Trump’s negative reputation in Britain is exaggerated.
Much of this debate played out Monday evening as the U.S. leader attended a lavish state banquet at Buckingham Palace with his host and counterpart as head of state, Queen Elizabeth II. This event is the centerpiece of Trump’s visit, with some of the most important figures in Anglo-American politics, business and culture attending.
But some people chose not to attend — including the most high-profile royal family members of the moment: Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.
A number of prominent names said they would not accept the invitation to dine with Trump, while others were not invited.
The U.S. delegation to the banquet is notable: Not only were the president and the first lady in attendance, but also the president’s four adult children: Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump and Tiffany Trump.
A number of other American political figures also attended, including U.S. Ambassador Woody Johnson, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, national security adviser John Bolton and Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
The queen hosted the dinner, and a variety of royals and other members of the aristocracy were there. Members of Britain’s political elite, such as outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May, as well as candidates to replace her, including foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt and environment secretary Michael Gove, were there, too.
Guests from the business and cultural worlds included prominent Americans living in London. Reporters spotted HSBC chairman Mark Tucker seated next to Tiffany Trump and Royal Dutch Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden seated next to Eric Trump’s wife, Lara.
Who skipped it?
Perhaps just as notable, however, are the invitees who decided not to attend the dinner. In particular, several high-profile politicians, including the leader of the opposition, publicly turned down their invitations.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, declined to attend the dinner. He said in a statement in April that the prime minister “should not be rolling out the red carpet for a state visit to honour a president who rips up vital international treaties, backs climate change denial and uses racist and misogynist rhetoric.”
John Bercow, the high-profile speaker of the House of Commons, also did not attend, and neither did Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrat Party. Cable wrote in the Financial Times on Sunday that “no amount of pomp, circumstance and royal regalia can disguise the fact that Mr. Trump poses a real risk to the world, and to Britain.”
It is unusual for high-level British politicians to publicly decline to attend a state banquet although not unprecedented. Cable refused an invitation to a state banquet with the king of Saudi Arabia in 2007, for example.
Another figure who was not at the banquet table was Meghan, who is on maternity leave. The U.S.-born Duchess of Sussex has made critical comments about Trump in the past, prompting the president to tell a British tabloid newspaper in an interview that he “didn’t know that she was nasty.”
Who wasn’t invited?
Other prominent figures were missing, too — not because they turned down an invitation but because they never received one.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, at the center of a continuing feud with Trump, has said that he was not invited to the event but that he wouldn’t have attended even if he was. “We shouldn’t be rolling out the red carpet; we shouldn’t have a state banquet,” Khan said last month in an interview with LBC, a British talk-radio station.
British media reports suggest that Sajid Javid, the home secretary and a candidate to replace May as prime minister, was not among those invited to the banquet.
Last month, the Mail on Sunday news outlet reported that Trump had requested that Nigel Farage, a personal friend and leader of the Brexit Party, be invited to the dinner. Farage said this weekend that he was “banned” from meeting the U.S. president, however, in accordance with the wishes of the British government.
Even so, Farage and another Trump friend, former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, could attend a reciprocal event at the U.S. ambassador’s London residence Tuesday.