We Brits are renowned for our politeness – but even we can't stomach holding a state visit for Donald Trump

In this country we are terribly good at the pomp, the trumpets, the red carpet banquets, the whizzing about in little golden carriages and the glitzy cocktails – but not this time 

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The Independent Online

Every one of us sane and decent citizens has a limit and yesterday evening, with the full jarring possibility of President Trump’s state visit dawning upon me – the banquets, the photocall with Queen Elizabeth II, the red carpets and forelock-tugging – my own personal red mist descended. A retracting of the gums and shortening of breath. A peculiar urge, for the first time in my painfully centrist existence, to glue an A2 piece of cardboard to a stick and wave it in Whitehall.

I feel I may not be alone.

A UK Government and Parliament petition, yes one of those dreaded e-petitions which all right-minded folk wrinkle their nostrils at, now held my attention as its counter flickered and grew rapidly. It demanded Trump’s visit be downgraded to a plain old, normal “visit”. This in light of Trump’s first week in power: the Muslim baiting, the airport chaos, the signing of a ban on federal money going to any group that supports abortion, any lack of direction on repealing and replacing Obamacare, the puzzling rambling over Mexico paying for a wall and so on.

It was as if lots of British people watched this and thought, y’know, I don’t think he deserves to be thrown a party by us.

It is not, crucially, a petition asking for Donald Trump to be banned from Great Britain, because asking someone to plan a trip before humiliating them at the airport is terrible manners and is the sort of thing which led yesterday to Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington, describing Trump’s actions as a “train wreck”. “These people couldn’t run a two-car funeral,” he said, although Trump remained unruffled by this and made it to his 3pm screening of Finding Dory in the White House cinema.

Meanwhile, more than one million people have signed the petition demanding Trump does not get an official state visit. One and a quarter million as I write this column, despite May announcing this morning that she rejects it outright. It is unclear if any of May’s advisors pointed out that a million signatures in less than 48 hours is almost, well, unprecedented. Or that the signatures came from every electoral borough too. Yes of course, from the lefty do-gooders of Brighton, and of Hove, and indeed from lots of leafy lefty London, but also from hundreds of Trump state visit refuseniks from remote nooks of the North, in Penrith, Stranraer and Skye, across Wales and throughout Northern Ireland.  

Admittedly, watching the numbers on this petition grow minute by minute, in hefty chunks, is oddly reassuring. Because the petition’s wording is indeed rather quaint and nuanced, complaining of “causing embarrassment to the Queen” as if the 90-year-old mensch hasn’t seen off bigger rogues in her time – but still it suggests a certain solidarity on this subject.

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We know that in this country we are terribly good, after centuries of practice, at the pomp, the trumpets, the red carpet banquets, the whizzing about in little golden carriages, the closed roads and the glitzy cocktails and all the other tiny state visit touches. All the bells, bangs and whistles which allow grey elected bodies from across the globe to sweep into town for three days and leave feeling all special and pretty like Mia in The Princess Diaries. We’re British, it’s what we do. And many of us feel its an insult to us all to expect we’ll consent to this for Donald Trump.

The Big Orange One is welcome to book in, at his own expense, at the Mandarin Oriental in Hyde Park and have as many dismal little meetings with Prime Minister May over the “special relationship” as they so wish. But allowing him a state visit not merely communicates that Britain admires him, but furthermore suggests that any reported revulsion we have is “fake news” purported by failing news groups.

It’s very hard to refute a picture of Trump holding hands with the Queen. Bring me my banner. If he’s coming, let’s give him a welcome.