My comment on the proposed State visit by Donald Trump and how all future State visits will be changed as a result appeared yesterday in the Argus Newspaper in the opinion section: The recent dispute over the proposed State visit by Donald Trump that has been expressed in petitions for and against the invitation and by publicly aired debates involving the Speaker of the House of Commons and a range of Politicians will not end when Airforce One finally departs from our skies. It seems inevitable that whatever happens with regard to the Trump visit that any future invitations to the leaders of other nations for a State visit will be scrutinised and challenged in a manner that could create difficulty for the Government and the Royal Family. As Julia Hartley Brewer and other commentators pointed out at the weekend, there was no similar outcry by the political establishment prior to or during the visit of Xi Jinping in October 2015 although the public outcry was certainly very strong. The way in which our nation and china managed the public elements of the Jinping visit was shameful and showed a high level of coordination to ensure that those opposed to the visit were visually blocked out by ‘supporters’ of President Xi. There are of course significant differences between the well-recognised persona of Trump as leader of the largest Western Government and that of Jinping, even though the human rights record of China is far more troubling than that of USA. The truth is that politicians like Andy Burnham and John Bercow are responding in part to the public outcry as well as their own concerns. It is clear that once a matter is opened up for public debate, that like toothpaste it cannot easily be returned to a place that is out of sight!
Since the Queen took to the throne in 1952 there have been 15-20 State visits every decade. Many have been from national leaders with much lower profiles than President Xi. However the cost of the Jinping visist was somewhere around £2M to the British Taxpayer. The Honour accorded to him and Trump of course comes from the Royal Family and the Government of the day, but actually it is our state, it is not their state as we live in a democracy. It is our money, not their money. Since I submitted my piece to the Argus, the Government responded to those of us who signed the petition calling on the Trump visit to be downgraded. This is what they wrote:
HM Government believes the President of the United States should be extended the full courtesy of a State Visit. We look forward to welcoming President Trump once dates and arrangements are finalised.
HM Government recognises the strong views expressed by the many signatories of this petition, but does not support this petition.
During her visit to the United States on 27 January 2017, the Prime Minister, on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen, invited President Trump for a State Visit to the UK later this year. The invitation was accepted. This invitation reflects the importance of the relationship between the United States of America and the United Kingdom. At this stage, final dates have not yet been agreed for the State Visit.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Let us hope that the next time the Government wants us to support their position on a particular matter, that they will understand if 2 Million of us feel inclined to tell them we don’t.