This week Parliament debated a petition to ban Donald Trump, businessman and "Apprentice" supremo, from entering Britain, in Westminster Hall. Over 100,000 people signed the petition, hence it was selected for debate, however whether Mr Trump plans to visit is uncertain. We have in this country a long history of civilising tolerance, developed out of conflict, deliberation and progress.
Westminster Hall is a place of particular resonance in that history, where over-bearing attitudes have been brought into line with thinking of the day, sometimes with force, even when held by the most powerful. King Charles I was sentenced to death there.MPs represent their constituents in Westminster by leave of those who send them, and the sensible ones keep close to mind the summary nature of the decisions of public opinion which can end it.Those from whom the public withdraws their support have somewhat better prospects than in the past, happily. No longer do political disagreements lead to duels, disembowelment or decapitation - there is a settled and more civilised system of elections, debates, votes and law courts to govern us, and for this we must all be grateful.So when a terrorist menace threatens our hard won civilisation with a throwback to barbaric and outdated methods of dealing with difference, and brings them to our shores, it is right we should oppose it in the strongest terms.
Our American cousins feel no differently. They are conscious of freedom, born of escape from religious intolerance, a need to be self reliant, and a desire to make their own economic destiny, and their own strong democratic and legal institutions have been forged out of traumatic disagreement.When they speak we should listen, even if we disagree, and we should be robust with them where necessary and encourage them not to take retrograde steps.And so to Mr Trump, the Donald, the orange prince of American self-publicity - more public now than usual because he will be running for President if he wins the nomination as Republican candidate, and possibly be close to the Presidency should Bernie Sanders and not Hillary Clinton be selected as the Democrat candidate.He has said things which many of us would not, and the addition of celebrity has been somewhat grotesque. To say he would ban Muslims from entering America was too simplistic, unhelpful, and wrong. But I don't think there is evidence he does not believe in democracy, so talk of fascism is a bit overblown.
While clumsily expressed and exploited by Mr Trump, people's concerns about the terrorist challenge do need to be addressed. However we need to work positively with Muslim communities, not demonise them.Where better for Trump's spurious opinions and characterisations to be debated and debunked than here in the UK, the crucible of modern democracy? Who would not want to watch him challenged by Andrew Neill, or poked and prodded on Have I Got News For You?Let him come. Bad opinions and characters have been allowed in Britain before, not a few of them home-grown, and we would not want to allow him any victimhood with which further to hoodwink people.
Less seriously - who knows? Up close we might also get to see just what is under that hair.