Regardless of political persuasion, there was a distinct sigh of relief in Westminster when Donald Trump decided to not attend the opening of the new American embassy in London.
Those who are left of centre abhor Trump’s politics, many of those on the right feel that any additional visibility for Trump makes matters messy, distracting, and will associate them with a President who is distinctly unpopular with the British people.
I view the issue through the lens of being MP for Peterborough: we live in one of the most diverse constituencies in the United Kingdom. People have come here from countries ranging from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe; Peterborough even has a thriving community originating from East Timor.I also view this matter through the prism of my own experience: my family’s origins are from abroad. It is with this dual perspective in mind that I feel particularly relieved. The idea of offering him any more hospitality paid for by the British taxpayer than absolutely necessary was particularly revolting. We should be under no illusions: there are people both in Britain and America who agree with the thrust of Trump’s statement about immigrants from countries he finds to be, to put it delicately, less than ideal. Furthermore, nostalgia is a powerful force which can, at times, override fact: when immigrants first came to America from Ireland, Italy and Russia, those countries were considered to be terrible places. The immigrants themselves were called “un-American”, speaking strange tongues and adhering to faiths that were not part of the mainstream. When immigrants came to our shores from India, Pakistan and the Caribbean, they were considered “un-British”. But: immigrants added to the rich tapestry of both nations, adding diversity, and by doing so, adding depth and strength. I understand the pull of nostalgia in one respect: people long for simpler, more stable times. Britain and America are by no means alone in embracing nostalgia as an ideology: we see it in political movements across the world that want to rescind immigration, re-impose a formerly existing order, and secure ethnic/national boundaries. There is an anger that was borne out of a world shaken by the ructions of markets and governments that don’t see inequality as a problem. I suggest, however, that these problems won’t be solved by turning on our neighbours, nor do the likes of Trump achieve anything other than increasing the temperature. The answer to poverty is not to blame the immigrant, but to change the system. If we want to limit crime, the challenge is to recruit, retain and properly pay more police and build stronger communities. In short, we should stand together, rather than divide.