London and Freedom of Speech


I do not agree with the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, in his rather aggressive approach towards entertaining the visit of President Donald Trump of the U.S.

President Trump is a guest of the U.K. Government, whether the Mayor likes it or not. He has done everything in his power to deter the visit and make it very inhospitable for President Trump when he came calling last week.

London is amongst the top 3 cities of the world, along with Paris and New York, that is the most visited in the world. It is the financial and commercial capital of the U.K., and ranks either #2 or sometimes #1 in the finance circles as the most capitalistic city with a tremendous presence of the world’s top banking and financial institutions. It may, however, not continue to be in that exalted position for long with the onset of “Brexit”.

Never mind its position as a top city in the world; the least the city can do is to welcome any guest – and, in this case the leader of the U.S. with which the U.K. claims a rather “special” relationship. You may detest him, you may not like his anti-immigration stance, you may hate his vituperative outlook on Europe and its problems, but nevertheless you do not want to antagonize him. If there is a war with Russia, you need the U.S. to be on your side. It depends on whether the President likes you or not, unfortunately, given that he also does not like NATO.

Mayor Khan could have done better. He did the right thing by allowing the public to protest against President Trump, and let the blimp fly over central London as an insulting symbol of the President. But, in his official position as Mayor of London, he should have welcomed the President whether he likes him or not. The Mayor let his visceral hate of the President overtake his common sense. And, common sense is very critical in governance and law enforcement.

In life, it is not possible to only meet with people that you like, whether in social life, corporate life, or elsewhere. The maturity of a person is measured by his or her ability to transcend personal likes and dislikes, and connect with the “other” side of the equation in an equanimous manner. Irrational outbursts against a philosophy which is anathema to a person of power, influence and persuasion should be avoided by that person. After all, the world has multiple sides on any issue, and one cannot just argue forever that his or her side is always right. What about the 30% of the people who may disagree with the 51% majority in that case? Democratic processes as per law can and should be allowed in any democratic country to play out, but the governance mechanism cannot be held to account by majority view on any issue if it is not part of an electoral process. If that be the case, the judiciary of any country can be swayed by what appears to be a majority opinion (based on polls), and could make a judgement call which is not necessarily in conformity with the law.

The same case with Mayor Khan – he should have used his head more than his heart when it comes to policy making and receiving guests. As expected, President Trump shunned London and heavily criticized Mr Khan on crime statistics, which unfortunately for the mayor, appears to be true. London briefly overtook New York on murder statistics earlier this year. The increase in public attacks of innocent victims cannot be dismissed as the mayor did, blaming inadequate policing due to cuts in budget. That is a blatant excuse for non-performance and lack of governance. The Conservative Party has no guts to fight against Mr Khan due to his popularity, another misconceived capitulation.

In simplistic terms, Mayor Khan has failed in governing London successfully, and his escapism on governance does not go down well with the thinkers in the electorate. Mothers are afraid to send their children out into the city. Hospitals are overwhelmed with treating victims of attacks on the streets. Law enforcement is weak. The mayor should be having his hands full dealing with all these issues, rather than spending time criticizing President Trump.

I am not a big supporter of the president, but I believe it is important to welcome guests invited by your own government and show them around depicting the success story of your city, and dispel incorrect notions. It is as simple as that, rather than shunning the visitor who has wrong impression of you.

This post is not aimed at defaming Mayor Khan – only his inaction in welcoming the President of the U.S. It cannot just be his own “choice” – it is for all of London to welcome a guest.

So, at the end, President Trump did not spend any time in the city of London – he avoided it completely. That’s a slap in the face of London, and that’s not a good sign.

Can’t we have a mature discussion between two dissenting adults?

On the other hand, Mayor Khan was singled out by President Trump on terrorism, while there were many other cities in Europe and the U.S. itself which were under terrorist attack. May be there is something there which is irking the president – one would never know. It is not a secret that the president likes Boris Johnson, however!

Have a good week ahead, folks

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

15th July 2018

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