Category Archives: Donald Trump

Trump ought to keep his paw out of the North Korean beehive

I sometimes wonder if Donald Trump has ever picked up a history book, or one covering war or geopolitics. It wouldn’t surprise me if he hasn’t, but he ought to.

I hold out a slither of hope that his advisers are at least more intelligent than he is, because if they aren’t, the United States could be sticking its hand rather naively into a hustling North Korean beehive.

If the president knew anything about Pyongyang’s foreign policy, he would know that missile tests are neither new nor particularly threatening.

During his eighteen year tenure, Kim Jong-il carried out plenty of missile tests, including nuclear ones, and usually for the purpose of playing a little political brinkmanship.

Under Jong-un, this trend has continued, and the endgame is the same. North Korea wants concessions and reassurances, not war. It is a country that can barely feed its people and a place in which electricity shortages are commonplace.

Pyongyang’s behaviour on the international stage has always has a perversely rational tinge to it. In the early 1990s, the communist pariah state’s first missile tests lured the Clinton administration into fruitful negotiations.

A deal known as the Framework Agreement (signed in October 1994) allowed for a sensible trade-off between North Korea and Bill Clinton’s United States: no more nuclear weapons development for relief of military hostility and economic sanctions.

Then again in 2005, after President Bush’s ideological dismantling of the countries’ relationship, Pyongyang offered Washington another deal which explained:

“The D.P.R.K. committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning, at an early date, to the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to IAEA safeguards.”

The BBC notes in a timeline of DPRK-US nuclear talks that on December 20th 2005, “North Korea says it intends to resume building nuclear reactors, because the US had pulled out of a key deal to build it two new reactors.” The potential for progress between Jong-il and Bush was thus quashed.

There are more lengthy accounts of negotiations between the two countries available online, and given that I only intend to show that non-military avenues have not been exhausted, I do not need to reproduce them in their entirety.

The Trump administration must surely be aware of this important history. If it is, then it knows that war isn’t even close to being necessary. Without negotiations that produce a long-term agreement between Washington and Pyongyang, tensions will continuously resurface.

I have chosen thus far to remain objective about Donald Trump’s presidency, opting not to jump on nauseating pro or anti bandwagons. But Trump’s strike on the Assad regime in Khan Shaykhun the week before last and the use of a 21,000lb bomb in Afghanistan at the weekend tell me that old presidential patterns could be emerging.

A trigger happy state like the United States has employed the sledgehammer technique time and time again, often under the guise of fanciful democracy promotion.

‘Smash everything into pieces, and then when that doesn’t work and new problems spring up, smash those problems into tiny pieces too’.

It seems to me that as we move from a hegemonic world in which Washington could more or less control global affairs into a more nuanced, multi-polar world, with new threats and competing powers, the only noticeable foreign policy strategy coming out of the United States appears to be: ‘suppress any and all stability emerging on the doorsteps of our rivals’.

So in the case of North Korea, it is difficult to ignore the possibility of Trumpian pre-emptive strikes. Any missile attacks on North Korea would be both laughably unnecessary and, perhaps more importantly, intolerable in Beijing.

For China, the prospect of an unstable North Korea, shattered by military action and hollowed out by inevitable droves of fleeing refugees, must be avoided at all costs.

Donald Trump may think, based on his action in Syria, that his military endeavours are isolated incidents and that they will not have long lasting ramifications, but as ever he’d be mistaken. If he strikes Jong-un’s regime, he’ll have lost any remnant of support I ever had for him.

North Korea’s vice-foreign minister Han Song-ryol told the BBC today: “If the United States encroaches on our sovereignty, then it will provoke an immediate counter-reaction.” This seems to me reasonable. I would expect no less than if Trump were to attack Britain.

North Korea undoubtedly lacks a moral compass, but this does not make its declarations of sovereignty or its military mobilisation irrational. Pyongyang does behave outlandishly, but as a stagnant pond left after the departing tides of the Cold War, it was always going to attract unique scepticism.

I ask readers to draw inspiration from past diplomatic successes before succumbing to the appeal of yet another completely unnecessary war.


An analysis of the gathering storm clouds over the Korean peninsula

Back in January, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, a respected academic journal collating the world’s leading thinkers on global security and threats, altered their ‘Doomsday clock’ (initially established upon the founding of the agency in 1947), setting it to two and a half minutes to midnight. Midnight, of course, meaning: it’s over.

I am astonished the re-setting didn’t get more pertinent media coverage. This is, after all, the most respected journal on nuclear affairs, and any warning signal given by specialists in the field should be treated very seriously indeed.

The clock has been this late before, I should inform readers. The atomic analysts set it to two minutes to midnight back in 1953, upon the ending of the Korean War and heightened hostilities between the world’s two superpowers.

This morning I went back and read their reasonably short and concise report in light of the geo-political movements of recent days. It can be read here, for anybody interested. 

Particularly fascinating are the following two passages, which can be found on pages 3 and 7 respectively, precisely because they articulate North Korea’s role in both the intensifying of friction between nuclear powers and the adjusting of the Doomsday clock:

“North Korea conducted two more nuclear weapons tests, the second, in September, yielding about twice the explosive power of the first, in January. Pyongyang also relentlessly tested missiles, achieving a rate of about two launches per month in 2016. In his 2017 New Year’s statement, Kim Jong-un declared he would soon test a missile with an intercontinental range.”

…and

“The United States, China, Russia, and other concerned nations engage with North Korea to reduce nuclear risks. Neighbours in Asia face the most urgent threat, but as North Korea improves its nuclear and missile arsenals, the threat will rapidly become global. As we said last year and repeat here: Now is not the time to tighten North Korea’s isolation but to engage seriously in dialogue.”

I have thought for a while that North Korea, not ISIS, would prove to be Donald Trump’s biggest foreign policy challenge. This was primarily because, towards the latter stages of the previous United States administration, ISIS lost a lot of ground both in Syria and Iraq, whilst North Korea ramped up their nuclear development program. One threat seems to have leapfrogged the other.

The world appears to be inching towards nuclear conflict and an increasing proportion of hostilities are being driven by officials in Pyongyang. But we didn’t necessarily have to have arrived here. It is worth examining historical records.

In 1994 the United States and the DPRK signed what was coined in Washington as the ‘Framework Agreement’. The deal prescribed that the U.S withdraw hostile, pre-emptive military acts in the Korean peninsula and embark upon comprehensive trade and diplomatic relations, in exchange for an easing on economic sanctions and a halting to the development of North Korean nuclear weapons.

The agreement was successful, until about six years later when George W Bush became U.S president. He immediately dismissed the deal and re-imposed harsh sanctions, before labelling North Korea as the third wheel in what he referred to as the ‘axis of evil’.

Richard Perle, the former chair of the Defense Policy Board which advised the Bush administration’ Defense Department, said of the 1994 Framework Agreement that “the basic structure of the relationship implied in the Framework Agreement…is a relationship between a blackmailer and one who pays a blackmailer.”

In the mind of President Bush, Perle had painted the nature of the Clinton administration’s agreement with North Korea in a misleading fashion, and it may have resulted in a warping of Bush’s attitude towards dealing with the North Korean problem. So US-DPRK ties soured and North Korea resumed its nuclear weapons program.

But, a few years later in 2005, a new agreement was proposed. Pyongyang asked Washington to cease engaging in hostile military acts, to bring an end to crippling economic sanctions (effectively a non-aggression pact) and to enact provisions over a system to provide North Korea with low-enriched uranium for scientific purposes. In return, they promised to suspend their nuclear weapons program. I think this, much like the 1994 Accords, was a reasonable proposal.

Bush did not accept the agreement; something we now know to be a mistake. If we look at the situation now it appears as if, by flouting openly their nuclear progress, North Korea are beckoning for the United States to offer them some kind of deal.

They know that if they want something from the global hegemon, developing weapons is the only action they can carry out that will garner its attention and lure it into a dialogue. In a perverse way it is actually extremely sensible.

No longer can they wholeheartedly rely on the Chinese, too. China has grown increasingly frustrated with its communist neighbour, understandably tense parked next to a promiscuous nuclear state on the Asian continent and worried about a large-scale build up of refugees on the border that the two countries share (this could very well be why the Chinese have warned the US about war escalation).

The concern for the region now is a question of how far Pyongyang is willing to go with its nuclear program. Is it merely trying to attract the attention of the United States, as it has done so repeatedly over the past two and a half decades, with its long held aim of creating nuclear missiles capable of reaching continental America?

If the United States is to act quickly, it will have three options: intensive discussion starting soon, pre-emptive military strikes (which I think will happen) or harsher economic sanctions, which have been tried time and time again and usually result in strengthening Pyongyang’s intransigence in developing nuclear weapons.

John Delury, a professor of Chinese studies at Seoul University, wrote recently for Foreign Affairs: “North Korea will start focusing on its prosperity instead of its self-preservation only once it no longer has to worry about its own destruction. And North Korea will consider surrendering its nuclear deterrent only once it feels secure and prosperous and is economically integrated into Northeast Asia.”

I think he is correct. Pyongyang seeks reassurances, and will continue to pursue them aggressively. Kim Jong-un has already proven himself to be more forceful than his predecessor, conducting 35 missile tests and four nuclear missiles in his four years at the head of the North Korean regime. Jong-Un will also want to present his country as a force so as to incentivise his neighbours to act in ways that will calm his regime. There certainly seems to be a Machiavellian motive to all this.

Washington, on the other hand, is once again bemused. It is trying to figure out what its approach ought to be towards the DPRK. I fear we will see yet another display of Trumpist unilateral bombing, irrespective of China’s desperation for North Korea to remain as stable as it can possibly be.


Protests are admirable, but a looming Trump state visit is nothing to worry about

It is at least a promising sign for the future that so many people seem willing to engage with politics at present. Clearly 2016 was the kick in the teeth that large sections of the population needed. I am glad that, despite having my own disagreements with views and counter-views expressed in the public arena, people are organising themselves and allowing their voices to be heard. It is refreshing and suggests that history isn’t necessarily on an inevitable course.

Contrary to cynical dismissal, public protests are largely effective and represent two healthy signs in any democracy: firstly, that freedom of assembly is respected and people are free to campaign for causes they deem worthy, and secondly, that citizens care enough to fight for the change they feel should be enacted; a value in and of itself. History tells us that the brainwashing or brutalising of people into indifference can have awful consequences. 

Most democratisation, it is worth remembering, has nothing to do with government. Much of it is the collective attempts of passionate individuals to try to shape their surroundings, be it saving a local park or unionising at work. That is why I am appreciative of the very real efforts of individuals to fight back against both Donald Trump’s Executive Order on immigration and his looming state visit to Britain. It shows a willingness to respond to major political changes; a quality not easily found in the disenfranchised. I don’t necessarily approve of some of the reaction and hostility, but engagement is undoubtedly a positive thing. Protests are almost always admirable, and if I see them in the street I usually smile and aid efforts by posting a photo or two on social media.

Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ (which wasn’t a ban on Muslim entry to the United States, but rather a 90-day suspension on immigrant and non-immigrant entry for nationals of seven countries earmarked as terrorism hotspots) provoked understandable backlash, but much of it came from ill-informed audiences, who clearly had not bothered to read the order in full. While “Muslim ban” makes for a provocative hashtag, it was deceiving and represents one of the ways in which mass media has a quite corrosive effect on democracy; in that it misleads and makes it difficult for people to inform themselves. 

As for the new president’s upcoming state visit to Britain, which more than a million people object to in a hilarious new petition which claims that he should be prevented from making the visit so as not to “cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen”, there isn’t much to worry about. Touching though it is for the Left to spare a thought for royalty for a few moments. Far more reprehensible world figures have travelled to London amidst more muted public outrage, such as King Abdullah in 2007 or Xi Jinping a little more than a year ago. Now that I think properly about it, it is especially bewildering that more fuss meets the arrival of Donald Trump than did Saudi Arabia’s horrid monarch. Perhaps I’m giving Twitter a little more credit there than it deserves. 

Again, I try to give protestors (and I’m expecting quite the platoon upon his eventual arrival – the counter-event will no doubt take on a life of its own) the benefit of the doubt. They are making their voices heard and trying to influence things; a natural human response that helps to explain the popularity that democracy retains. So long as any exhibition doesn’t take the form of violence or riotous chaos, and showcases – as the best protests always do – some charming British wit, I applaud those who take part and respect their right to free assembly.

But the wave of anger that now confronts Mr Trump’s state visit to the UK isn’t justified. Yes, the President is himself thoroughly disagreeable in many aspects and cuts a controversial figure, but we should take a few important things into account. Lord Ricketts, a Foreign Office secretary during the days of the coalition government, said of May’s decision to invite President Trump so quickly: “It would have been far wiser to wait to see what sort of president he would turn out to be before advising the Queen to invite him. Now the Queen is put in a very difficult position.”

I do not think he is correct. I think precisely the opposite is true. It appears to me wiser to invite him at a moment in time in which world leaders are trepidatious and do not know how to react to him. I think this allows Britain to get ahead, establishing strong ties with Washington and a president getting a feel for the demands of his new job. State visits, no matter who sits next to Her Majesty in the golden carriage, are not about individual politicians. They are opportunities for strengthening bilateral relations, not personality tests.

Trump is not Hitler or Stalin. He is an entirely new entity that international diplomacy and world order are going to have to adjust to. Protests will not change these unalterable facts, but they might help to show America’s new president that not everybody appreciates his way of doing things.

 


Trump’s inauguration and the new American patriotism

Despite the bold claims and fancy soundbites woven into Donald Trump’s inaugural speech earlier this evening, I thoroughly enjoyed most of what he said. I thought that his message, delivered with conviction and characteristic bite, was refreshingly patriotic. The beauty of Trump’s discourse is that it is precisely not what we would ordinarily expect from a senior statesman: politically incorrect, blunt and wildly ambitious.

I was struck, as I always am by these occasions, by the tendency of those on the conservative Right (or at least those pretending, as I suspect Trump could be) to rely heavily on patriotic sentiment in political discourse. Yes, the ceremony symbolises a transition of power and a new chapter for a republic, but there is always something spectacular about effused, Right-wing patriotism.Today’s inauguration certainly had a distinctly patriotic feel to it. The pomp traditionally provided by celebrity performances was ditched and religious propensity played its typically central role.

Trump said poignantly during his speech that “when you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.” Perhaps this kind of rhetoric is a tactic that the Right finds useful when it comes to setting a narrative.  I have for a long time considered ‘patriotic correctness’ to be a means of regulating acceptable thought, speech and behaviour by those on the Right, almost certainly a defence mechanism designed to counterweight the more liberal-espoused political correctness. But the best part by far of the new president’s inaugural message came towards the end, as he claimed boldly: “We will bring back our jobs, we will bring back our borders, we will bring back our wealth and we will bring back our dreams.” In one powerful sentence, Trump encapsulated why he had been entrusted with office. It was a beautiful line, displaying his love of country and using it to directly address the concerns of ordinary American people.

It tends to be the case that the political Right, or conservatives, are more openly patriotic than those on the liberal Left. Research on this issue is both abundant and unsurprising. The Pew Research Center show that by and large, ‘steadfast conservatives’ are more likely to believe that the United States of America stands out above all other countries, with only a small minority of ‘solid liberals’ agreeing: http://www.people-press.org/2014/06/26/section-2-views-of-the-nation-the-constitution-and-government/.

A prominent Gallup poll, conducted between 2001 and 2016, showed that while patriotic feeling has stagnated, those most likely to be patriotic are republican voters: http://www.gallup.com/poll/193379/new-low-extremely-proud-americans.aspx, which serves to support the idea that a broad liberal-conservative divide, not by any means perfectly illustrated by voting tendencies, exists when it comes to attitudes towards American patriotism. By July 2016, 68% of Republican voters said that they were proud to be American, compared with just 45% of polled Democrats.

If the new leader of the free world’s combative inaugural address is anything to go by, the exploitation of republican-led patriotic sentiment in America (I strongly suspect Trump’s voter base included many democratic defectors, too) might well be what we end up calling Trumpism. It probably has something to do with how the president connects with people. Simple language, bold optimism and evocative expressions of personality are exotic traits in modern politics, used sparingly and often by those attempting to present themselves as ‘anti-establishment’.

The imagery, too, was remarkable as Trump stood up in front of a White House teaming with establishment figures. Four former presidents sat nervously behind him as he delivered a punchy pledge to unite Americans, reminding them of the privileges they are to enjoy over those he referred to as “outsiders”. This does not mean that the new American patriotism is rooted in xenophobic prejudice or snobbish majoritarian entitlement. Rather, it is a rallying cry against the very mechanisms that have left a large chunk of the population feeling marginalised. In many ways, Trump’s presidency marks the first true test for populism in the modern era. Since Marine Le Pen must wait until May to be elected and Brexit has not yet happened, the next few months will serve as a useful appetiser for those who have spent the last year or so riding populist waves.

 

 


Why 2016 was the year of the establishment

When Nigel Farage and Donald Trump describe the events of 2016 as a ‘political revolution’, they do so not to paint an informed picture, but to massage their own egos. For them, the idea of revolution cements their place in history. It validates their importance to the political arena, even in the face of adversity and massive public criticism.

Various alt-Right claims concerning the magnitude of last year’s political changes are at best dubious and at worst insulting lies. 2016 was not the year of political revolution. It was a year in which swamps were drained with swampland and a year in which the public relations industry worked its magic in ways never seen before to create the false perception that we now, more than at any other time, live in a post-truth political environment.

Yes, it is true that startling alliances were exposed that sent powerful signals to government, and that the public mood seemed to defy even reputable polling, but one only has to take a look at the manoeuvring of the chess pieces currently on the board to examine that the effects of 2016’s groundbreaking votes haven’t been as profound as commonly thought.

Take, for instance, the new cabinet of president-elect Donald Trump. After promising to ‘drain the swamp’ at the White House for many months, Trump’s new cabinet picks are more than a little eyebrow-raising. The combined wealth of Trump’s cabinet, excluding the president-elect’s $3.7bn fortune, is a staggering $4.5bn[1], and not all positions have been decided upon.

It can be a little easy to forget that the establishment often branches out far wider than politics itself. What we call the establishment is in reality an intricate web of political figures, banks and multinational corporations, media, owners atop strategic industries and international institutions. Many of Trump’s cabinet selections, like ExxonMobil chief Rex Tillerson or Wilbur Ross, who made millions dealing with subprime mortgage’s during the 2007-08 crash, reek of establishmentarianism.

They are deeply engrained within an economic elite, and despite Trump’s plan to draft in figures that will revolutionise America’s negotiating skill and allow it to do business his way, the establishment stench will linger so poignantly that even many of his voters will be able to smell it. If by ‘swamp’, Trump was referring to establishment figures, then swampland has undoubtedly been replaced with swampland. It is, too, worth noting that the ‘anti-establishment’ candidate received more than 2 million less votes than the firmly established Hillary Clinton in last year’s presidential contest.

I am always suspicious when a political figure claims to be waging a war with the establishment. It tends to be a war cry, designed to rally a specific kind of voter; whoever the disillusioned and marginalised voter of the day would appear to be. It makes sense, as the thirty year period of neoliberal capitalism has, for all its successes, brought about a deep-rooted marginalisation of the working man. Anger is understandable. The question therefore should be: “How do we deal with this frustration constructively?”

Similar trends were noticed during Britain’s EU referendum. As the arguments intensified, established politicians like Boris Johnson and Theresa May played their cards close to their chest, one choosing to use the campaign to fight a proxy war with David Cameron, the other choosing to campaign mildly in order to take advantage of a fallen Prime Minister. The script read like a west end play.

After Cameron’s resignation and an underwhelming Tory leadership contest, Remain-backing Theresa May took the helm and entered Number 10 as Prime Minister. The government she formed featured campaigners on both sides of the referendum, and once again the Conservatives found themselves strapped with the task of carrying out Brexit. Thanks once again to some clever manoeuvring, the party that for years had supported Britain’s membership of the European Union was in charge of withdrawal.

The same politicians, with a few exceptions, are calling the shots, and Britain seems both reluctant to reveal its negotiating cards and content to stretch the process out for as long as possible. The very same pattern has emerged on both sides of the Atlantic: the anti-establishment types, camouflaged as defenders of the working man in a bid to attract widespread support, were so zealous and deceiving in their pursuit of power that they forgot almost entirely how to deal with it when it came.

In 2016, the establishment launched a coup unto itself, disguised as its sworn enemy. It managed to harness the anger of forgotten communities and mould it into a brand new mandate; with which it will trot confidently into what is deemed to be the new political era. And what’s worse? Even our populists, who ceaselessly present themselves as anti-establishment, are starting to look every bit as careerist and every bit as bubbled as those they claim to oppose.

 

[1] Peterson-Withorn, C. (2016). Here’s What Each Member Of Trump’s $4.5 Billion Cabinet Is Worth. Available: http://www.forbes.com/sites/chasewithorn/2016/12/22/heres-how-much-trumps-cabinet-is-really-worth/#e7a9676f0219. Last accessed 2nd Jan 2017.


Donald Trump’s interesting critiques of this election are universal and worth talking about

For those who missed Wednesday night’s third and final presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton (you didn’t miss all that much), an interesting segment entitled ‘Will you accept the results of the election?’, wedged between sections on the economy and foreign hot spots, drew some much-needed attention to electoral failures; highlighted quite inarticulately by Donald Trump.

I wanted to write about the segment because it is rare for politicians – if we’re allowed to call Mr Trump that yet – to acknowledge the many glaring flaws that are deep-rooted within elections, whether they are mayoral, parliamentary or presidential. Whilst I do not want to get into the nitty gritty of this specific U.S election, I did want to discuss the political merits of what Trump said last night on a more general basis. In the video attached below, the segment starts at 1:04:53 and ends at 1:06:50, and during which he says:

“First of all, the media is so dishonest and so corrupt, and the pile on is so amazing. They have poisoned the minds of voters. If you look at your voter rolls, you will see millions of people that are registered to vote that shouldn’t be registered to vote.” I have taken out some of what he says, as he tends to babble, and he also goes on to accuse Mrs Clinton of criminality, which I will not comment on. Trump’s comments are anchored in truth, but not truth that is in any way partisan or solely applicable to him. Moreover, they represent the fundamental problems caused by the electoral process, which include voting, the party system, media influence and public relations.

Take, first, the involvement of the press in an election. Publications and broadcast stations and all take sides. The media use their influence and tribalism to either assassinate the character of the politician running against their side, or they report on or exaggerate untruths about that individual. I am not saying that I do not support a free press, but rather that I think that the tribal nature of the media in the run up to elections creates an atmosphere of perpetual mudslinging. Furthermore, media tycoons like Rupert Murdoch have a disproportionate influence on both general British governance and the election of a government. This would seem to me to be a clear breach of democracy, and one that we should look into more frequently.

Then take his comment regarding fraud and rigging. I should point out that even in a country with a population of more than 320,000,000 people (according to a recent census), the idea that “millions” of people are falsely registered appears unlikely. Without doubt electoral fraud – and mistakes – do happen, even on large scales. Look at what happened in Tower Hamlets a couple of years ago with postal votes and the impact that that may or may not have had on the 2015 General Election. The point is: whichever way you cut it, elections are easily rigged and easily contaminated. And why does it happen? Simply to get red or blue into office; parties (be it Democrat, Republican, Labour or Conservatives) that in recent years have tended not to represent ordinary folk too well.

A few days ago, this interesting feature appeared in the ‘Washington Times’:  http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/oct/17/no-voter-fraud-isnt-myth-10-cases-where-its-all-to/ and highlights some rather high profile and recent cases of vote rigging and general electoral fraud. Fraud is rife in elections all across the world, but what is particularly astonishing is the extent to which it goes on even in free and democratic countries. The Ukrainian election of 2004 was re-run due to widespread allegations of corruption on the part of both presidential candidates. It is true that the United States and Britain are not as corrupt, so why aren’t they proving it? The answer is in the electoral process. Elections cannot be fortified to fight back against rigged results and fraud. I shudder to think at what will happen when voting becomes an exclusively online endeavour.

You see the vicious cycle emerge more clearly when you picture it like this. The truth is that most people care not about how their country is governed, but about which party (or which colour) is in office. I would perhaps suggest that this is not healthy. Maybe, instead of a party system, we could look to alternative methods of forming governments, like selection by lottery. Just a thought.


Parliament’s debate over Donald Trump’s UK ban shows the PC brigade are winning

American Apprentice aside, I’ve never been a particularly passionate supporter of Donald Trump. His inclusion in this year’s race to American presidency was a shock initially, his rising popularity and success even more so. I suspect he’ll make the Republican camp’s final candidate, but whether he reaches office this year is, for the moment, unclear.

Trump has exploited fear in his presidential campaign quite unlike any politician I’ve witnessed. Incessant scaremongering, emotionally-charged policy making and derogatory remarks about Muslims or Mexicans have, despite the outrage promoted, widened American political debate fiercely, and his almost comical (I should think many still do not take the man entirely seriously) march to the White House has been strengthened as a result.

But policy and opinion is not the point. Western politics has been disenfranchising for many in the twenty-first century, which explains the rapid insurgence of far-right views and groups across both sides of the Atlantic. Trump is doing what he needs to do in order to garner mass support: exploiting public concern, and playing up the idea that American citizens are endangered by current policies. Statements concerning counter-extremism measures, including a scathing critique of British police and demography are evidence of this.

But when a surprisingly popular petition was slapped onto the UK parliament’s website demanding his inability to enter Britain, I thought many (currently at 571,000 signatures) had completely overreacted. Dismayed as I was, I was certain that MPs would not take such an outlandish request seriously, and remained faithful that the petition to ban Mr Trump from the UK would not be debated or considered in any substantive political context.

I was wrong.

Yesterday, a date was set for the 18th January 2016, for a discussion to take place in the House of Commons over whether or not Donald Trump, president or not, should be banned from entering Britain. Oddly enough, I’m looking forward to the debate, as I am still unsure of how any MP, of any political persuasion, will be able to justify the banishment of an American citizen or politician on the premise of a few, undesirable opinions.

No such debate has been held over the legitimacy of a jihadist fighter’s right to return to Britain, but Donald Trump’s entry is called into question over some pretty questionable comments during his campaign. The whole thing reeks of the left’s hypocrisy over free speech. They like freedom of thought and speech when it coincides with their agenda, but not when it directly contravenes it.

The very confirmation of the debate sounds to me like Britain’s political correctness brigade have won. With this, another nail is hammered into the coffin of free speech in the United Kingdom, a country which, incidentally, helped pioneer the concept of the freedom to speak one’s own mind, without hindrance or punishment.

It seems to me that the very tolerance of the left of British politics has crumbled to such a dangerous extent that those who air views which others do not like are automatically classified as dangerous and must be ostracised and marginalised wherever possible. Such treatment of Donald Trump in this case (and I should point out that I do not agree with many of Mr Trump’s views) is wholly untenable.

I sincerely hope that my country’s politicians (who themselves have, at times, made some pretty scandalous and controversial comments on a wide variety of issues) see through the latest in a long line of attempts to destroy freedom of speech forever, and to ensure that the flag of political correctness is raised triumphantly over its demise.