The Council debated on Monday an emergency motion condemning Donald Trump’s Executive Order prohibiting people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.
I am, for the record, uncomfortable with emergency motions. They do not afford proper time for scrutiny, discussion, or amendment, and block scheduled business. As such, I do not agree with some of the words. However, I thought it imperative, to vote and speak in favour of the motion and condemn in the strongest terms Donald Trump’s deeply un-American actions.
Sadly, before I spoke, the debate had been hijacked by some Labour councillors as an excuse to attack Theresa May for daring to conduct diplomacy with President Trump: despite the fact that it was only that diplomacy that secured an exemption from his barbaric ban for British citizens (and persuaded Donald Trump not to reintroduce torture, for that matter).
I didn’t write much of a speech beforehand, but below is the speech in full:
I, too, like the rest of my colleagues I think, will be voting for the motion. We’ve been disappointed by some of the language used in this debate, but we are not disappointed with the motion, nor do we agree with any of the actions by Donald Trump.
Because frankly, how could you agree with the actions of Donald Trump? In the face of the division that he has created, we should show unity to overcome it and to set an example for the United States to follow.
The actions of Donald Trump last Friday night were both unethical and unconstitutional. They were brutal and they were barbaric. They would, if they happened here, be un-British, and god damn it, they are un-American when they happen there.
Gio happened to mention someone that I also saw in the newspaper, Hameed Darweesh, who worked as a US Army interpreter in Iraq for ten years, and was willing to give his life in the service of that country in defending his country. He landed at JFK on Saturday morning and he was detained for six hours by this barbaric Executive Order. But when he was released, he wasn’t angry – he said, “In Iraq, America is the land of freedom.”
That “land of freedom” is encapsulated in the Pledge of Allegiance they say every day in schools: their promise of “liberty and justice for all”. It’s encapsulated in the Declaration of Independence by the idea of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. It’s encapsulated in the Constitution of “We the People” and of Lincoln’s “Government of, by, and for the people”: all the people. Sadly, Donald Trump – sadly, the President of the United States – has not been living up to that part of the bargain.
In September, on a separate issue, about refugees coming to here, I mentioned the words inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.” That is the cornerstone of the American experience. That is the core of the bricks that were laid to build America.
Now we don’t have a statue with those words on in Camden, but we do have another statue that, like the Statue of Liberty, was a gift from the Government of France in the 19th Century. It’s one of Richard Cobden on Camden High Street: an MP and diplomat that said that what he stood for was, “The breaking down of barriers that separate nations; those barriers, behind which nestle the feelings of pride, revenge, hatred, and jealousy, which every now and then burst their bounds, and deluge whole countries with blood.”
If we are to live up not just to the statue in New York City, but also to the statue in Camden, but we have to condemn the building of those barriers and lift that torch of liberty above our head. So I am proud to vote for this motion in the hope that America once again becomes that shining city on a hill.
I am also proud of the Government’s ability to get an exemption for British citizens – we might not have agreement across this chamber on that issue. However, I don’t think governments around the world should rest until there is an exemption for everyone, of all nations and refugees of none. That is the American way, and I hope Donald Trump follows it.