British Parliament Member David Lammy Discusses Why He Opposed Trump's Visit
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
And we're going to turn next to what was happening while President Trump was holding that meeting with Theresa May, then having tea with the queen, this anti-Trump rally in central London in Trafalgar Square which kept swelling. Labour MP David Lammy, who has long said Trump is not welcome in Britain, took the mic to address the crowd.
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DAVID LAMMY: We don't march because we hate the United States of America. We march because we love the United States of America.
KELLY: A very similar message to the one I heard from Lammy when I sat down with him at Parliament earlier and asked why he didn't want the U.S. president here.
LAMMY: From where I sit, firstly because of his disdain for Britain and secondly because of the way he treats minorities, particularly in his own country, he's not welcome here.
KELLY: Is there a value, though, to civility, to sitting down and talking with somebody who may see the world in a really different way than you do who you may passionately disagree with but talking?
LAMMY: Civil servants in the British Foreign Office and the U.S. State Department are talking every second of the day. And the love and close relationship between the British people and Americans is extremely close family ties, deep friendship ties. That is going on.
But I think it is important in the family that is democratic nations to send powerful messages where they're required. Harold Wilson disagreed passionately with Lyndon Johnson about the Vietnam War and was very clear that we would be sending no troops. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, despite their very close relationship, fell out badly when the United States invaded Grenada and did not inform Britain that they were going to do that.
So there are moments where the relationship has been tested. It's tested because of friendship. And I think at this point in time, Donald Trump is sitting so far outside the family of civil, democratic, acceptable behavior that actually in support of many American people, it's important for us to communicate our disapproval. And we should not be rolling out the red carpet for him.
KELLY: To what extent is this personal?
LAMMY: All that is being communicated in the strongest of terms is specific to Donald Trump.
KELLY: His Cabinet is welcome. Other Americans are welcome. It's just him.
LAMMY: Now, look; of course there are individuals within his Cabinet that I'm worried about - Jeff Sessions, for example, in the rolling back of civil rights, of affirmative action I feel very, very acutely as an ethnic minority, black British Member of Parliament who's in close touch with friends in the Black Caucus and in Congress in the United States. But I think specifically the concern at the moment is around Donald Trump.
And let us be absolutely clear. He is landing in a country where British men and women lost their lives fighting fascism in the Second World War and were very, very pleased when the Americans joined us in that effort. And we won that Second World War. So to have a president today that thinks it's OK to tweet far-right fascist agendas, that thinks it's OK to make light of our first Muslim mayor, that thinks it's OK to brush aside the progress that America's made on civil rights but America's offered the world on civil rights, these are red lines that we have to be absolutely clear on.
KELLY: You studied in the States. I noticed on your CV you were at law school 20 years ago. And I wonder. When you travel there now, does it seem like the country that you knew then?
LAMMY: I've always found in the well-over 30 years that I've been traveling to the United States of America that in those 50 states are many different countries that make up the United States of America.
KELLY: This is a fair point.
LAMMY: And that is still the case. Look; I remember attending meetings in George Bush's White House and speaking to friends and attending meetings in Barack Obama's White House. They're different visions of America. But I think that what we're seeing at the moment is outside a normal range. It's profoundly affecting the world. This is the leader of the free world who is really shaking the world in uncertain ways and very worrying ways. And I think in the end, that's what British people will be communicating when they march.
KELLY: David Lammy, thank you.
LAMMY: Thank you.
KELLY: David Lammy - member of Parliament, Labour MP for 18 years. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.