LONDON — The British Parliament on Monday hosted an extraordinary debate over whether to ban U.S. Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump from visiting the United Kingdom.
The debate, which was triggered by an online petition that described Trump’s comments about Muslims as “hate speech,” did not produce any binding decisions. Authority to ban someone from the country rests with the home secretary, not with Parliament. But the exchange gave British lawmakers an unusual chance to weigh in directly on U.S. politics.
Here's how the debate went down at the Palace of Westminster. All times are Eastern:
2:31 p.m. — The chair does a cursory call for “ayes” and “no’s.” But there’s no actual vote. The debate is over. Watch this space for a recap.
2:30 p.m. — Paul Flynn, the Labour member who began the debate three hours ago, is back on his feet. People watching — including those in the United States — “have seen Parliament at its very best. They’ve seen a diverse debate from a diverse Parliament,” he said.
2:24 p.m. — James Brokenshire, the immigration minister, is being challenged on Prime Minister David Cameron’s announcement Monday that immigrants who are in the United Kingdom on a spousal visa can be ordered to leave the country if they don’t make sufficient progress in learning English. Brokenshire says the proposal is not aimed at Muslims. And he steers the conversation back to Trump: “The best way to defeat nonsense like this is to engage in robust democratic debate.” That suggests the government isn’t planning a ban.
2:18 p.m. — We’re well into the evening now, and the debate is winding up. Brokenshire is summarizing for the governing Conservatives. There’s no contradiction between being Muslim and being British, he says. Britain would never consider the kind of ban that Trump has proposed.
2:14 p.m. — Keir Starmer, a Labour leader and former chief prosecutor, invites Trump to his constituency, which he says is diverse and where people live in relative harmony. But he notes that his invitation is just one at the end of a long list. If Trump comes to Britain, he’ll be very, very busy.
2:05 p.m. — Starmer says Trump’s most extreme comments came after a recent mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. He was “not the first, and won’t be the last, to make comments about a community in the wake of an atrocity.” That points to the need to blame individuals, not communities, following a mass killing. Starmer says it’s important to show the Muslim community how much it’s valued. And he says Trump’s views are “repugnant.” But he calls a ban on Trump “far too simplistic.”
1:58 p.m . — Lots of amateur analysis of American politics going on in Parliament right now. Scottish National Party member Anne McLaughlin was just interrupted by a member who wanted to talk about GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz. “Where is the Republican Party going, putting one [candidate] up who’s as bad as the other?” she was asked.
1:45 p.m. — Through a thick brogue, McLaughlin notes that Trump is “the son of a Scottish immigrant. And I apologize for that.” She accuses Trump of “hypocrisy” in his views on immigrants, and urges him to “look to Lady Liberty for some advice.” She says the strongest argument for banning him is “equality.” Others have been banned for similarly hateful remarks, she notes.
1:31 p.m. — Kwazi Kwarteng, one of a relatively small number of black members of Parliament, notes that the debate has been “sanitized” because it has ignored the long tradition of nativism and xenophobia in U.S. history. Nativism, says the historian and Conservative member, is very much within the American political tradition. And Trump is part of that history. He may want to ban Muslims, but “the answer to his ban is not to ban him.” Doing so would only give him more publicity, generating “headlines around the world.” And besides, Trump could win. “And then we would be in the absurd situation of having banned the president of the United States.”
1:24 p.m. — British members of Parliament are exhausting a thesaurus using words to condemn Trump. They’ve called him “a buffoon,” “a demagogue,” “a joke.” One member called him “an idiot” about five times in three minutes.
1:19 p.m. — Philip Davies, a Conservative, accuses those who want to stamp out intolerance of being intolerant themselves. He says that it’s easy to be for “motherhood and apple pie,” but that it takes “real guts” to say things that are controversial. He’s not defending Trump. But he is defending Trump’s right to speak. Davies is interrupted by another Conservative, Adam Holloway, who says the debate is “embarrassing” for Britain. “We should apologize to the people of the United States,” he says. “It’s for them to decide, not us.”
1:11 p.m. — Before the debate, Trump had threatened to withdraw his planned investment in his Scottish golf courses if Britain went through with a ban. That threat may have had an impact. Corri Wilson, a Scottish National Party member who represents the area that is home to Turnberry, one of the billionaire businessman’s golf resorts, read off statistics about the number of jobs created in her area by Trump. She opposes the ban.
1:01 p.m. — Monday’s debate comes as Britain is grappling with extremism — both Islamist and Islamophobic. Jack Dromey, Labour’s spokesman on home affairs, says allowing Trump to come to the United Kingdom at such a time would be “damaging, it would be dangerous, it would be deeply divisive.” He imagines Trump bringing his rhetoric to Birmingham, a city with a substantial Muslim population, and wonders how that would affect young people there, saying, “the consequences of that would be very serious indeed.” He says Trump and Muslim extremists feed off one another, adding, “ISIS needs Donald Trump and Donald Trump needs ISIS.” Dromey closes with a call for a ban: “Donald Trump is free to be a fool. But he’s not free to be a dangerous fool in Britain.”
12:54 p.m. — If the United Kingdom ban’s Trump, where would it stop? So asks a member who seems to be with the majority of the speakers in opposing a ban. Lots of people have extremist views, he says. If you start banning people for saying things that are offensive, “how long would the list be?” He says Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban would be on it.
12:46 p.m. — Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, a Scottish National Party member, is interrupted by a questioner who describes Trump’s comments as “buffoonery,” which should be met “not with a ban, but with the great British response of ridicule.” There are a few cheers for this idea.
12:42 p.m. — Ahmed-Sheikh says that by condemning Muslims, Trump has condemned Britain’s Olympic athletes, its newscasters and its members of Parliament. And he’s playing into the Islamic State’s narrative, by portraying a clash of civilizations between the West and the Muslim worlds. Others have been banned for anti-gay rhetoric or for Islamist extremism. The government needs to be consistent, and ban Trump for his hateful rhetoric against Muslims. “His remarks are condemning an entire religion,” she says.
12:38 p.m. — Everyone is condemning Trump today — even the ones who oppose a ban. The opponents say the proponents are inadvertently helping him by “fueling the man’s publicity machine.” Or so says Victoria Atkins, a Conservative MP, who says New York was named after a hamlet in her district.
12:37 p.m. — Trump has weighed in. Or at least, one of his executives has. Sarah Malone, executive vice president of Trump International Golf Links, said in a statement: “It is absurd that valuable parliamentary time is being wasted debating a matter raised as part of the American Presidential election. For the UK to consider banning someone who made a statement in America, about American boarders [sic] during a US election campaign is ridiculous.”
12:30 p.m. — Naz Shah, a Labour member, brings up the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. who, she says, “deserves more recognition today than does Donald Trump.” She says the way to defeat Trump is to “challenge him with goodness.” As a Muslim woman, she would be banned from the United States under Trump’s plan. But she won’t support banning him from the United Kingdom. Instead, she wants to invite him to Bradford, “the curry capital of Britain.” She would serve him food and take him to the mosque, she said.
12:27 p.m. — Add another to the list of those opposing a ban. Tom Tugendhat, a Conservative backbencher, says the United Kingdom has no business intervening in British politics. “While I think this man is crazy,” Tugendhat says, “I will not be the one to silence his voice.”
12:19 p.m. – Gavin Robinson, a member of the Democratic Unionist Party from Northern Ireland, is also using the opportunity of this debate to rip his opponents, including republicans in Northern Ireland and nationalists in Scotland who, he says, once welcomed Trump with open arms but now condemn him. Trump, who’s of Scottish heritage, has invested heavily in Scottish golf courses and was until recently a business ambassador for Scotland.
12:15 pm. – There doesn’t seem to be much enthusiasm for a ban – at least so far. Robinson adds his voice to those saying Trump should be invited to Britain so he can be shown how wrong he is, rather than banned. Trump, he says, is “a ridiculous xenophobe. But someone we don’t need to promote any further.”
12:10 pm. – Edward Leigh, a Conservative backbencher, says those who want to shut down a demagogue may be guilty of demagoguery themselves. “If we only allow freedom of speech for those we agree with, is that free speech at all?” He condemns Trump, and says he’s personally pro-gun control, pro-public health care and has nothing in common politically with Trump. But he says banning Trump is an attempt to “shut down the debate over immigration.”
12:06 p.m. — Tulip Siddiq, a Labour member from north London, is the next to rise. She supports keeping Trump out, saying, “I draw the line at freedom of speech when it imports a violent ideology.” The government’s option to ban people is intended to protect the public. It should be applied to Trump, and he should be banned from visiting “the multicultural country that we are so proud of.”
11:58 a.m. — Paul Scully, a Conservative, says Trump’s comments were born out of “fear.” He says he wants to emphasize the positive contributions that immigrants make to British society.
11:55 a.m. – Scully says other bans have been enacted for reasons of “incitement or hatred.” Referring to the idea of banning Trump, he says: “I’ve never heard of one for stupidity. I’m not sure we should be starting now.”
11:53 a.m. – Scully emphasizes that it’s not up to Parliament to decide whether Trump is banned. It’s up to the Home Secretary, Theresa May. But, he says: “I’m sure she’ll be listening.”
11:50 a.m. – Labour lawmaker Paul Flynn concludes with a turn-the-other-cheek message, saying Britain should respond to Trump’s “words of prejudice” with “a hand of friendship.” Flynn wants to invite Trump to Britain, and show him around. And with that, Flynn yields the floor. Looks like a lot of others are ready to speak.
11:44 a.m.: Flynn has been interrupted several times by other members, one of whom calls Trump “a ridiculous figure.” No one has expressed a word of support for Trump, and some have suggested Flynn may be going easy on him.
11:42 a.m.: Flynn says as much as he disagrees with Trump, he worries that banning him would give him a “halo of martyrdom.”
11:39 a.m.: Flynn pays tribute to the Unites States as the land of “Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King and Barack Obama.” The debate, he says, isn’t about disrespecting the United States; it’s about the comments of one man.
11:34 a.m.: Flynn cites other cases when the United Kingdom enacted bans. Many of those, he says, involved “an immediate threat of violence,” which he stresses is different than this case.
11:30 a.m.: The debate begins with Flynn reading two petitions — one calling for Trump to be banned, and the other saying Britain should “mind our own business.” The petition favoring a ban attracted more than 570,000 signatures. The one opposing a ban received about 40,000. The debate is being held outside the main chamber of the House of Commons, with members gathered in a semi-circle. Several dozen members appear to be present.
Karla Adam contributed to this report.