I was watching the news this morning and they were talking, albeit briefly, about the impending debate in the House of Commons about Donald Trump. This debate has been precipitated by a petition. Now that might not be a bad thing, government actually responding to the concerns of the people, but there are things about it that do raise some concerns.
I remember having a conversation with a local MP many years ago about petitions and how they were viewed by politicians in contrast to a personal letter. I don't remember the details exactly, but the gist of the conversation was that a personal letter carried far more weight than a petition. The MP suggested that it was possible to get 100's if not 1000's of signatures for just about anything, whereas a personal letter said someone had taken the time to sit down and write something. And, if one person took the time, they probably represented the view of a potentially sizeable portion of the constituency, whereas people might just sign a petition simply to get rid of you form the doorstep or move on in the shopping centre.
Well, things have changed, and everyday we get emails and social media requests to sign a petition of some sort. Some I sign. Many I don't. That's me exercising my democratic right and not me not caring by the way!
And therein lies the problem. If I don't sign am I out of step with popular opinion, am I uncaring or uninterested? We judge very quickly and we are in danger, or so it seems to me, of creating a culture where we only ever listen to the voices of those with whom we agree and take immediate offence with those who think differently. Have we lost the ability to debate and discuss ideas and issues?
I'm not sure it's a good use of parliamentary time to be debating Donald Trump. A man whose hair looks like it's been styled by the creator of shredded wheat or the Brillo pad is difficult to take seriously in any context. The fact that he could become the next President of the most powerful nation on the planet would be comical if it were not so worryingly possible. Listening to his comments about not having time to be "politically correct" simply confirms his status as, well fill in the blank yourself.
On the other hand, listening to Natalie Bennett (the leader of the Green Party) this morning, I'm willing to accept that there's a case for the discussion. That's the value of listening to both sides of a debate. I guess in the end that if it takes a petition to help us all engage with the issues, then more power to the petition. But beware the petition that polarises the issue into who's right and who's wrong reduction of complex questions.
I suspect in the end that Mr T won't be banned from visiting the UK. I just hope that if and when he does he gets asked the tough questions and gets well and truly grilled over the things he's had to say.