Banning Donald Trump from the UK would allow the US presidential hopeful to be portrayed as a martyr, an MP has warned.
Labour’s Paul Flynn insisted the “great danger” of attacking the billionaire businessman is it could “fix on him a halo of victimhood” and boost the cause of his supporters.
The Newport West MP added it would also be a “grave error” for the debate to fuel suspicions that the British parliament was acting in an anti-American way.
More than 570,000 people have signed a petition asking the British government to bar Trump, arguing there must be action against “hate speech” regardless of a person’s wealth or power.
The tycoon, who wants to be the next Republican president, sparked widespread anger after he demanded a block on Muslims entering the US and claimed parts of London were “so radicalised”, police were “afraid for their own lives”.
SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh said a ban would be justified on the grounds of “religious harmony”.
Last night’s debate, which took place in a packed Westminster Hall committee room, ended without a vote.
During the debate in Westminster Hall, Conservative former minister Andrew Murrison questioned whether any ban would be overturned should the “ridiculous” Trump be elected US president.
He warned it would be an “almighty snub” to those who voted for him if it remained in place.
Murrison told Flynn: “The election of your own party leader [Jeremy Corbyn] has shown that remarkable things happen in politics.
“So we have to be alive to the possibility that this ridiculous individual — that is Mr Trump — may be elected as president of the US.
“In that event, would such a ban be overturned, since it would be one almighty snub to the American citizens to which you have been referring.”
Flynn replied: “I’m sure that’s absolutely right and the great difficulty that we’re in is, in showing disrespect for Mr Trump, it might well be interpreted by supporters and others in America as showing disrespect to the American nation.
“This is not what we’re saying. It’s one individual that’s involved in this.
“But 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?”
Earlier, Flynn said Trump’s case is similar to that of Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who was seen to be “fomenting hatred against Muslims and guilty of homophobia”.
The MP said: “He was banned by the home secretary in 2009 and what happened with Mr Wilders is he appealed to the court and won.
“The result was he was allowed into the country, the publicity and attention he had for his Islamophobia was multiplied a hundred-fold by the ban and I believe that’s something that we should bear in mind.”
Conservatives criticised the debate, telling MPs they were playing into Trump’s hands by fuelling the publicity over his comments and also claimed attempts to ban him went against the British tradition of freedom of speech.
Conservative Edward Leigh said banning the Republican would only “play into Trump’s hands”.
He told MPs that Britain had welcomed Chinese and Saudi leaders as well as Romanian director Nicolae Ceausescu, “whose crimes are far, far worse than anything Trump can dream up”.
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