Jeremy Corbyn, the UK leader of the opposition, and John Bercow, the speaker of the House of Commons, have turned down an invitation to a banquet in Donald Trump's honour, hosted by the Queen.
Party leaders and senior politicians were invited to dine with the US president and British prime minister Theresa May at a lavish state banquet in the Buckingham Palace Ballroom when Trump visits the United Kingdom in June.
However, the pair, along with Sir Vince Cable, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, the third-biggest party in England, have declined their invitations to the event.
It is traditional that on the first evening of a state visit, the guest is welcomed at a dinner. It is expected that, as custom dictates, the Queen will deliver a speech and propose a toast to Trump. Senior royals are likely to attend the event.
In a statement, Corbyn said: “Theresa May should not be rolling out the red carpet for a state visit to honour a President who rips up vital international treaties, backs climate change denial and uses racist and misogynist rhetoric.
“Maintaining an important relationship with the United States does not require the pomp and ceremony of a State Visit. It is disappointing that the Prime Minister has again opted to kowtow to this US administration.
“I would welcome a meeting with President Trump to discuss all matters of interest.”
The role of the speaker — who presides over Commons debates — is supposed to be impartial. A spokesperson for Bercow did not give a reason as to why he had declined the invite, saying only: “Mr Speaker has been invited to the Banquet, but he will not be attending.”
Cable released an email sent to Buckingham Palace staff, in which he also declined an invitation to the event. He wrote: “I have taken the view that as a party leader I should not support state visits where the government of the day has issued invitations inappropriately.
"I did not accept an invitation to attend a State Banquet with the King of Saudi Arabia for that reason. I hope and trust Her Majesty The Queen will understand that I decline this invitation out of no disrespect to her. I am of course hugely honoured to have been invited.”
Speaking afterwards, he said: “The Conservative Government has prevailed on the Palace to host President Trump, and they are dutifully doing so. But we should not be beguiled by pomp and circumstance into hobnobbing with a man who is on record as a misogynist and a racist.
“If we need to do business with the United States on an intergovernmental basis, we can do that without rolling out the red carpet in this way.
“The fact this state visit is occurring at all is a shameful stain on the Government, who doubtless see it as a distraction from the mess they are making of running the country.”
BuzzFeed News has contacted the Scottish National party, Britain's third-largest political party, to ask whether a representative had accepted an invitation to the State Banquet.
Several British members of Parliament have criticised the visit and called for the public to organise protests in London during the president’s stay. Activists are already promising to hold a bigger demonstration than the march of 100,000 people who gathered in central London in opposition to Trump's visit to the UK last summer.
Hannah Al-Othman is a political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Hannah Al-Othman at email@example.com.
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