Greenwich Council

Agenda item.

Motion - "Council calls upon the Government to abandon plans to invite Donald Trump on a State visit to the UK"

Decision:

Resolved –

 

This Council notes with alarm the decision by Donald Trump, President of the United States to 'retweet' Islamophobic propaganda from the Britain First Twitter account.

 

Council further notes with sadness the President’s bigoted attitude towards women and ethnic minorities which has resulted in examples of division and hatred within the USA.

 

As such, Council calls upon the Government to abandon plans to invite Donald Trump on a State visit to the UK.

 

Council further calls upon the government to use funding that would have been spent on Security for such a state visit to fund charities such as the Jo Cox Foundation that promote peace and understanding.

 

Council notes the positive impact of the work it has undertaken with The Greenwich Inclusion Project; Greenwich Action for Voluntary Services; faith groups and community groups throughout the Royal Borough. As such, Council reiterates its commitment to working with residents to strengthen community relations.

 

Council notes with regret that this Borough’s commitment to maintaining a strong and vibrant community is incompatible with the ideology and policies espoused by President Trump.

 

As such, should the Government choose go ahead with State Visit, this Council makes clear that President Trump would not be welcome in the Borough.

 

Minutes:

The Mayor noted that Councillors Linda Bird, Bill Freeman, Denise Scott-McDonald and Aidan Smith also wanted their names to be recorded formally as supporting the motion.

 

Councillor Chris Kirby moved the motion.  He recollected the experience of racism in the area, including murders, and how people had marched against the BNP bookshop in Welling. He noted Greenwich had put initiatives in place to tackle hatred and division including the development of the award winning CARE Partnership. He noted there had been instances of hate crime around the country after the tragic murder of Lee Rigby. He said the Royal Borough of Greenwich was proud of its diversity. He drew Members’ attention to the work of the Greenwich Migrant Hub and of Greenwich being a place of refuge. Despite state visits being a national issue they had to take a stand on the matter. He described the activities of Donald Trump, which spread division and hatred, including attacking Sadiq Khan and publicising the far right extremist Britain First’s Islamophobic message. He emphasised that they should make their position clear, that there was no place for aggressive, bigoted, hateful rhetoric in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. A state visit by a president who would undermine our values had no place here.

 

The motion was seconded by Councillor Denise Hyland. She commented on the behaviour of Donald Trump, including insulting a variety of people. She noted how he retweeted Britain First and then rather that apologise he had attacked the British Prime Minister who had been critical of his actions.  She felt that the Prime Minister should withdraw her invitation for a state visit for the sake of peace and harmony in the world.

 

Councillor Matt Hartley proposed the amendment to the motion, as detailed in the published Tabled Items agenda. He made it clear that there was not a single fan of Donald Trump on the Conservative benches, and in his view Donald Trump was an appalling individual and deeply unfit for the office to which he was elected. They were in agreement with the first two paragraphs of the motion. He was grateful to Councillor Kirby for discussing the motion in advance, but there was a fundamental difference between Labour and Conservative Members on the purpose of Council motions. Conservative Members believed they should focus on local issues which were of direct relevance to the local residents who they represented. He said the contrast between this motion and the other motions on the agenda was instructive. Motions were an important part of local democracy, and should keep to local issues. He felt this motion undermined that in its focus on international politics. He added that Greenwich had rolled out the red carpet for Vladimir Putin without a motion condemning his views. He suggested that motions on international affairs were gesture politics, however well intentioned, and that was not what they were there for. So while they all agreed on how awful and dangerous Trump was, the amendment made clear that they should concentrate on local issues of direct relevance to local residents.

 

The amendment was seconded by Councillor Charlie Davis. He commented on Trump’s closed and narrow minded politics, and how it was important not to allow his ideology and those of extreme groups to shape the politics of open minded liberal society. He could not accept the motion because there was nothing they could do to stop the state visit and it was unenforceable. He said they should focus on issues they could make a difference on. He echoed Councillor Kirby’s point that they could not stand by and not speak up on this issue but suggested they could do that by their actions and attitudes and open view of the world rather than by the motion.

 

Councillor Mehboob Khan spoke against the amendment. He related his own personal experiences as a British Muslim, and the stand against racism. He said that Donald Trump’s comments were a deliberate attempt to undermine decent society. Britain had a long and proud history of excellent community relations and had a strong and cohesive society. He said that local residents wanted the Council to speak on their behalf on things that troubled them. The Council had a legal duty to promote cohesion, and a moral and ethical duty to stand up when they saw injustice and discrimination. He said that if Trump did come many would be campaigning to fight discrimination, and protesting against this vile individual. He said the amendment took away from the Council the opportunity to speak on behalf of local people

 

Councillor Sarah Merrill spoke against the amendment. She said there was not a line between national and local issues if the Borough’s residents were offended. She said it was the responsibility of the Council to stand up for residents. Individuals did not have a voice but the Council did have a voice, by statute, and they should use it and encourage other local councils to do the same thing.

 

Councillor Stephen Brain spoke against the amendment. He commented that the Borough had many residents originating from the Middle East. He said Trump was no friend of those people and was no friend of women. He noted Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and related the experiences of Palestinians in Jerusalem under the travel ban.

 

The amendment was not accepted by Councillor Chris Kirby.

 

Councillors Chris Lloyd, Linda Bird, Jackie Smith, Danny Thorpe

Allan MacCarthy and David Gardner spoke in support of the motion. It was emphasised this was a local matter, their citizens were from many countries and continents, and this was relevant to local people. As community leaders they spoke for their residents. Their history of dealing with racism was detailed. It was highlighted that Greenwich was a sanctuary borough for Syrian refugees whereas Trump had banned people from Syria and other countries. It was added that no one had known about the visit of Putin and he did not get the red carpet.

 

Councillor Matt Clare said they agreed with everything said, and the Conservatives were all unified in their despisal of Trump, but they disagreed that the Council Chamber was the place for the motion.

 

Councillor Chris Kirby noted that there had been agreement on a motion on EU Nationals and that was outside the remit of the local authority, so he failed to understand, and when they were in such strong agreement, why the Conservatives could not take the step to agree the motion. The motion was the Council saying on behalf of their residents that they thought that homophobia, sexism, misogyny, abuse, vile rhetoric, was wrong. He emphasised it was a local issue.

 

The amendment was put to the vote and with 7 votes for and 29 against the amendment was not carried.

 

Councillor Matt Hartley commented on the variability of the debate, thanking Councillors Kirby, Khan and Thorpe on their thoughtful contributions, but criticising elements of show boating by other Councillors. He reiterated that not every international issue should be for full Council. He said the EU Nationals motion had been about the rights of those citizens living in the Borough and so was a local issue not one of international affairs. He stressed that there was no difference in Members’ values when it came to hatred or bigotry, but there was a difference in the mechanism by which they approached that, and the Conservatives did not think it was the role of Council motions to do it.

 

Councillor Chris Kirby closed the debate.

 

The motion was put to the vote and with 29 votes for and 7 abstentions it was

 

Resolved –

 

This Council notes with alarm the decision by Donald Trump, President of the United States to 'retweet' Islamophobic propaganda from the Britain First Twitter account.

 

Council further notes with sadness the President’s bigoted attitude towards women and ethnic minorities which has resulted in examples of division and hatred within the USA.

 

As such, Council calls upon the Government to abandon plans to invite Donald Trump on a State visit to the UK.

 

Council further calls upon the government to use funding that would have been spent on Security for such a state visit to fund charities such as the Jo Cox Foundation that promote peace and understanding.

 

Council notes the positive impact of the work it has undertaken with The Greenwich Inclusion Project; Greenwich Action for Voluntary Services; faith groups and community groups throughout the Royal Borough. As such, Council reiterates its commitment to working with residents to strengthen community relations.

 

Council notes with regret that this Borough’s commitment to maintaining a strong and vibrant community is incompatible with the ideology and policies espoused by President Trump.

 

As such, should the Government choose go ahead with State Visit, this Council makes clear that President Trump would not be welcome in the Borough.

 

Supporting documents: