LONDON (Reuters) - More than a quarter of a million Britons have signed an online petition to ban Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump from the country following his proposal to stop Muslims from entering the United States.
Trump, who owns two golf courses in Scotland which he visited earlier this year, called for a complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on”. His comments followed last week’s deadly shooting spree by two Muslims in California.
The number of signatories to the petition was growing fast but Britain’s finance minister George Osborne said on Wednesday that Trump should not be banned from the country.
In the past, people have been banned from entering Britain for fostering hatred that might provoke inter-community violence.
The petition says: “If the United Kingdom is to continue applying the ‘unacceptable behavior’ criteria to those who wish to enter its borders, it must be fairly applied to the rich as well as poor, and the weak as well as the powerful.”
It was launched by Suzanne Kelly, a Scottish-based campaigner and longtime critic of Trump’s latest golf course in Aberdeenshire.
Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University said on Twitter on Wednesday it was revoking an honorary degree awarded to Trump in 2010 because he had “made a number of statements that are wholly incompatible with the ethos and values of the university”.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also stripped Trump of his role as a business ambassador for Scotland, a spokeswoman for her Edinburgh-based government said in a statement.
The British government responds to all petitions that gain more than 10,000 signatures, and topics are considered for parliamentary debate if they reach 100,000.
Prime Minister David Cameron said through his spokeswoman on Tuesday that Trump’s comments were “divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong”.
But finance minister Osborne went further on Wednesday when he stood in for the absent Cameron at the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session in parliament.
“Frankly, Donald Trump’s comments fly in the face of the founding principles of the United States,” he said, adding that they should be confronted through robust democratic argument.
“That is the best way to deal with Donald Trump and his views rather than trying to ban presidential candidates.”
In seeking to defend his proposal, Trump said the United States needed to be vigilant because parts of London and Paris were now so radicalised they could no longer be policed by officers, who feared for their lives.
London’s Metropolitan Police took the rare step of criticizing Trump.
“We would not normally dignify such comments with a response, however on this occasion we think it’s important to state to Londoners that Mr Trump could not be more wrong,” the police force said in a statement.
The capital’s Mayor Boris Johnson dismissed Trump’s comments as nonsense, adding: “The only reason I wouldn’t go to some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump.”
Additional reporting by William James and Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Gareth Jones