OPINION: Why John Bercow is wrong to try and ban Trump from the Houses of Parliament

By Sofia Geraghty

When I was about five, my parents decreed that my elder brother could go to be bed later than myself owing to the fact he was older. Outraged at their assumption that age should dictate how many hours of daylight you are entitled to, I immediately fled their oppressive regime and went to start a new life for myself in the shed. A few hours into my new life in the shed, it came to my attention that I had no water, food, light or heating and that I valued these things quite a lot. When The House sent a diplomat (or dad as he liked to be known) over for negotiations, I had little choice but to accept defeat.

I learnt a pretty important lesson that day: when it comes to fighting injustice, method is just as important as passion. Worryingly, it appears that this lesson appears to have escaped Common’s speaker, John Bercow. When John Bercow spoke out against Trump last week, much of the press painted an image of a social justice warrior, standing up to the evil dictator Trump. The Guardian declared that “Bercow refuses to bow down to sexism and racism” – and it was hard not to imagine Bercow in a red cape, single-handedly battling all the evil in the world.

Now the human brain is notoriously lazy, and has a predisposition for oversimplifying things: good/bad, black/white etc…Hence it is little surprise that the media narrative that Trump is the misogynist, racist reincarnation of Hitler and represents all that is bad, has gone down such a treat. We love a tale of a goody vs baddie. When Trump proposed banning entry from 7 Majority-Muslim countries for 90 days, the less interesting detail (i.e the time of the ban and the number of countries) was quickly shaven away to give way to the far catchier headline “Muslim ban”.  None of the placards I saw actually proposed a thought-out argument as to why the ban was wrong (probably because that wouldn’t fit on a placard) instead they called for us to fight racism by banning Trump (because Islam is a race apparently). Then they called for us to fight sexism by banning Trump. Then they called for us to fight homophobia by banning Trump.

I agree wholeheartedly with the principle that we should fight these things, but ‘banning Trump’ is not a very good method. Firstly, let’s not forget that countries under Islamic rule are some of the most intolerant towards anyone that is not a Muslim man in the world. The irony is that an Iranian woman is not allowed to leave Iran without the permission of her husband, and that homosexuality is punishable by death in several of the countries Trump has banned. I am not saying that all Muslims are sexist or racist, I am pointing out that some are, in the same way that some Trump supporters are. Let’s also remind ourselves that not all of the inhabitants in the countries that Trump has banned are even Muslim, the ones who will probably suffer the most aren’t.

Racism and sexism are beliefs that anyone of any creed, colour or religion are capable of having. By attempting to ban Trump from our country or Houses of Commons, and not all leaders who may be racist/sexist, we are not taking a stand against racism and sexism, we are taking a stand against America. Considering they are our most powerful ally, we have just left the EU and they host our nuclear deterrent, I feel this isn’t a good idea. Of course John Bercow could make it resolutely clear that he is opposing sexism and racism, and not America, by insulting and banning every leader that may/may not be racist or sexist. I’m sure the UK press would paint a very favourable picture of him, before we are wiped off the face of the earth.

It is the job of the press to create headlines, condense world news into readable chunks and sell newspapers, so they can be forgivenfor oversimplification. It is the role of government however, to act in the interest of their country based on the information they have access to. I do not propose banning John Bercow from the Commons, because there has been enough banning, but I do suggest that (if he is serious about fighting injustice) our speaker should take a break from speaking, and take up thinking instead.

Sofia Geraghty is Head of Digital at Parliament Street

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