Amber Rudd, the home secretary, handled that UQ rather well. The government’s intention has been to de-escalate the public row with President Trump, without withdrawing the criticism expressed yesterday, by stressing that UK-US relations go beyond individuals. That is the approach Justine Greening took on the Today programme (see 9.10am), that was the line coming out of the lobby briefing (see 11.57am ), and that was the argument Rudd adopted.
UQ granted at 1030 to @SDoughtyMP to ask @AmberRuddHR to make a statement on the activities of Britain First, online hate speech, and the sharing of inflammatory content by the President of the United States, @realDonaldTrump .
— Labour Whips (@labourwhips) 30 november 2017
But, even though Rudd did not really go any further in criticising Trump than Number 10 yesterday, she expressed her disapproval with conviction. Theresa May always sounds nervous saying anything remotely disobliging about Trump, but Rudd sounded as though she meant it. She also dropped hints to MPs that she, personally, would like to go further.
Many MPs said the visit should be cancelled altogether. In response, Rudd repeatedly used the same formula. She said:
An invitation for the visit has been extended and accepted, but the dates and the precise arrangements have yet to be agreed.
More below thr fold …
Rudd suggested that Trump should give up Twitter. In response to a question from the Tory MP Peter Bone, who suggested the “world would be a better place” if Trump deleted his Twitter account, Rudd replied:
It’s interesting to note [Bone’s] advice regarding Twitter accounts – I’m sure many of us might share his view.
And when the Tory MP Tim Loughton said that if Twitter was serious about fighting hate crime online, Rudd replied:
I am sure that the chief executive of Twitter will have heard the interesting suggestions from [Loughton] and we will leave it to them to decide what action to take.
Some MPs suggested Twitter and social media were bad for democracy. The most striking interventions on this theme came from Yvette Cooper, the Labour chair of the Commons home affairs committee, and Philip Hollobone, a Conservative. Cooper said:
Britain First gets is succour from spreading its poison and its extremism online. That is how it works and the president of the United States has just given it a rocket boost in promoting hatred in our communities. Online is where the new battle for democracy is being fought and the prime minister has rightly challenged Putin’s Russia for what she described as “seeking to weaponise information, to plant fake stories, in an attempt to sow discord” … We know from the plaque behind us [commemorating Jo Cox] and from our own history where the spread of extremism leads.
And Hollobone said:
For politicians, tweeting encourages the transmission of half-formed ideas, instead of listening to the developed arguments of others. It prompts a culture of instant reaction instead of considered thought. And it provokes people to immediate outrage instead of pauseful reflection.
Back-lash of hate in the U.K. …
British Muslims deserve full protection, and they will get it | Amber Rudd https://t.co/w9V3Td0ypt
— Amber Rudd MP (@AmberRuddHR) 20 juni 2017