Banning Donald Trump from the UK risks martyring him, MPs heard amid warnings the US presidential hopeful could “fuel the flames of terrorism”.
The controversial billionaire businessman was labelled a “wazzock” and criticised by several MPs for his “repugnant” remarks about Muslims, Mexicans, women and others during a three-hour parliamentary debate.
Calls to bar Mr Trump emerged from some MPs and Labour’s Jack Dromey (Birmingham Erdington) warned he should not be allowed “within 1,000 miles of our shore”.
This is because he would “embolden the EDL on the one hand and fuel the flames of terrorism on the other hand”, according to Mr Dromey.
But many Conservatives criticised the debate, saying MPs were playing into Mr Trump’s hands by fuelling the publicity over his comments while also claiming attempts to ban him go against British traditions of freedom of speech.
Labour’s Paul Flynn insisted the “great danger” of attacking Mr Trump is it could “fix on him a halo of victimhood” and boost the cause of his supporters.
Home Office minister James Brokenshire argued against a ban, explaining the UK should deal with all presidential candidates and seek to influence the US through a “frank and open exchange” of views over clear differences of opinion.
The debate comes after more than 570,000 people signed a petition proposing a UK ban against Mr Trump.
The Republican sparked widespread anger after demanding a block on Muslims entering the US and claimed parts of London were “so radicalised” police were “afraid for their own lives”.
As he opened the Westminster Hall session, Mr Flynn (Newport West) said: “Could I put it to the committee that the great danger by attacking this one man is that we can fix on him a halo of victimhood.
“We give him the role of martyrdom, which can be seen to be an advantage among those that support him.”
But Labour’s Tulip Siddiq (Hampstead and Kilburn) said the “corrosive and poisonous” Mr Trump should not be issued a visa to visit the UK, claiming there had been a rise in hate crimes since his comments.
She said: “His words are not comical. His words are not funny. His words are poisonous. They risk inflaming tension between vulnerable communities.”
Conservative Victoria Atkins (Louth and Horncastle) said Mr Trump would be viewed as a “wazzock” by some of her constituents as she spoke against a ban.
Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, the SNP’s trade and investment spokeswoman, noted Home Secretary Theresa May has already excluded 84 people for hate speech, adding: “Under her judgment, my view is that Donald Trump should be number 85.”
The SNP’s Corri Wilson, whose Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock constituency includes a golf resort owned by Mr Trump, said she did not “defend” his comments but warned it would be “catastrophic” for the area if he pulled out.
Conservative Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) said a ban would “send a very clear message” to the US about people who “demonise an entire people for no reason other than their religion”.
Mr Brokenshire said Mrs May uses the power to exclude foreign individuals from the UK to protect the country from national security threats, hate preachers and people who seek to “undermine core British values”.
He said the policy is not targeted at a specific group, adding: “It is in the UK’s interests that we engage with all presidential candidates – Democratic and Republican – even though we may disagree profoundly on important issues.”