[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Britain First is a far-right fringe group who pose a direct threat to the UK and the people who live here. Last week, Donald Trump, the President of the United States, chose to tacitly endorse their views on social media. The government has stated that an official state visit will go ahead. That is the bad news.
There has been an abundance of bad news during the Trump presidency. This is not even the first time that his behaviour has directly affected the UK. Make no mistake, his actions have had consequences, as those of world leaders often do. Britain First has boasted of “new followers”, basking in the spotlight the President has bestowed upon it. This, only months after Trump responded to a terror attack in London not with an official expression of condolence or solidarity, but with a tweet that criticised Sadiq Khan’s response. Even in the wake of trauma, it was a move that seemed calculated to stir up fear, anger, and discord, at which he has by now proved himself prodigiously talented.
Last year, MP Jo Cox was murdered outside her constituency surgery by a man who reportedly shouted “Britain first” as he attacked her. Her widower Brendan Cox immediately condemned Trump’s retweets, stating that “when you drive hatred it has consequences, people lose family members”. He has joined many MPs in calling for a state visit not to go ahead.
What good news can there be in response to all this? Perhaps the good news is not the right term under the circumstances. But there certainly is a positive response to Trump’s actions, and that response can be our own.
We must first, of course, show our rejection of the despicable views that Britain First represent. We can already see this rejection in Leeds: when Leeds Grand Mosque opened its doors to the community earlier this year people from all over the city participated in a day of cultural sharing, and across the last academic year LUU held dozens of events aimed at promoting and encouraging marginalised voices. And just a short drive away in Jo Cox’s former constituency of Batley and Spen, voters rejected far-right fringe parties who contested the seat so forcefully that the candidates lost their deposits.
But we must also protest. When Theresa May first extended to Donald Trump the invitation for a state visit, hundreds took to the streets in Leeds alone. We protested Trump’s appalling comments about women, we protested his so-called Muslim ban, we protested our own government’s tacit complicity in his acts. As yet, no state visit has taken place.
Donald Trump retweeting Britain First affects people in Leeds because it affects everyone in the UK. The US is suffering horribly under his presidency, and in trying to bear the weight of his hatred onto the UK, he has implicated us in the resistance against it. If we cannot prevent a state visit entirely, we have it in our power to deny it the legitimacy that Trump’s actions do not deserve.