As Members of the British Parliament filed in to a three hour debate yesterday on whether or not Donald Trump should be banned from the United Kingdom, all sides were in agreement on one thing: the non-binding debate, which would have no effect on government policy, was a complete waste of parliamentary time.
Although the petition calling for Trump’s ban has sparked a fierce debate on social media, many have questioned whether the topic should rightfully have been awarded valuable debating time within the British Parliament, when the subject is perhaps better suited to University debating societies.
Among them was Isabel Hardman, assistant editor of the Spectator, who mused on whether MPs could have spent the three hours of the debate more profitably considering how much pressure there is on MPs to use their time wisely.
“MPs are often bombarded with complaints from constituents when they don’t see them in the Commons Chamber debating something that those constituents think really matters,”
“They often have to reply explaining that the debate was a non-binding opposition day debate that would have made no difference to what the government was up to. Few constituents notice Westminster Hall proceedings, but if they did, their MP would have to explain that these debates, like Opposition Day ones in the main Chamber, don’t make any direct difference to government policy.
“Given all [the] demands on their time, surely a debate on a politician whose next visit isn’t yet booked must be reasonably low down the agenda? Perhaps the real question for MPs … is not whether Donald Trump should be banned, but why they’ve bothered to turn up at all.”
— Simon James Beech (@SimonJBeech) January 19, 2016
Two unfortunate things about MPs debating a Trump UK ban in Westminster Hall : 1) It’s a waste of time 2) He’ll love it .
— Mark Austin (@markaustinitv) January 18, 2016
It was a point that Piers Morgan also made, this time in the Daily Mail.
“They [MPs] have allocated three hours of time to do this.
“Time that could have been spent debating terrorism, famine, nuclear weapons, the Middle East refugee crisis or the Syrian War.
“But no, instead British law-makers have concluded their own time is best served seriously considering a proposal to ban a man who may end up being the next President of the United States.”
— Joshua Eldridge (@JG_Eldridge) January 19, 2016
Today there is a debate in Parliament about banning Trump. Considering it can’t be done legislatively they’ll be paid to waste time #lunacy
— Tina (@ElContador2000) January 18, 2016
Morgan goes further, pointing out the deep and lasting damage that the debate could do to British – American relations should Trump be elected President by the American people.
“Can you imagine a situation where President Trump, if he is elected, is actually banned?” Morgan asks. “It would make Britain the laughing stock of the world, and confirm to Americans that we’re just as pathetically petty and small pond in our thinking as you’ve always suspected.
“It would also cause serious, probably irreparable damage to Britain’s relationship with the United States.”
“Today’s Parliamentary debate is an affront to proper democracy, a stupendous waste of time, and it shames Britain.
“I can only apologise to Donald Trump and to America for this embarrassing farce.”
Is there not more concerning issues that need to be addressed than if Donald Trump should be banned from entering the UK!? #TrumpDebate
— Michael Teacy (@megamouth_88) January 19, 2016
Why was the Trump petition given a debate? It’s an obvious waste of time that just allows MPs to grandstand about how good they are.
— Sam Bowman (@s8mb) January 18, 2016
Trump himself apparently believes the debate to be a waste of time – a statement put out by Trump International Golf Links in Scotland read: “It is absurd that valuable parliamentary time is being wasted debating a matter raised as part of the American presidential election.”
No doubt those MPs debating Trump tonight will be claiming expenses for hotels, taxis and dinner tonight. Waste of time
— Standing for out EU (@david_standing) January 18, 2016
Meanwhile the Independent’s sketch writer, Tom Peck, who appears personally to have agreed with the main thrust of the petition, reveals that the MPs themselves thought it a waste of time.
“The debate, it was almost unanimously agreed, was a waste of time. The sheer number of MPs who turned up to say it was a waste of time meant it went on for three whole hours. “Why are we giving him the publicity?” they asked, one after the other, all broadcast live on US public service TV, and none more famous than Keith Vaz.”